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Cross-regional comparison of media practices

December 5, 2008

I am pleased to see in the opening EASA Media Anthropology Network mailing list discussion following the Barcelona workshop on cultural producers and media practices that the thorny issue of the need to undertake media comparisons across cultures has been raised a few times. I say ‘thorny’ because the question of comparison seems to me long overdue in the anthropology of media. Perhaps it hasn’t yet been attempted because of its positivist associations within anthropology as a whole, not to mention the fear that ‘cultures’ may have to be the main units of comparison. At any rate, it is often forgotten that one usage of the notion of ethnography that has framed a great deal of (media) anthropological research is the concept of ‘ethnographic regions’ (Barnard and Spencer 1996, Fardon 1990).

My question to those who’ve proposed that we undertake comparative studies – and to the list in general – is: How do we go about it? I for one would be very interested in a meeting that brought together regional specialists from two regions (say Insular Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, to mention two regions where I’m familiar with the media anthropology literature) to compare and contrast notes, i.e. a meeting focussed on cross-regional comparison. (I understand Caribbean media anthros have already met?). My guess, and this relates to Elisenda’s summary of Don Slater’s paper, is that each ethnographic region would throw up quite a different set of key media questions.

See subsequent discussion in mailing list archives

References

Barnard, A. & Spencer, J. (1996). Encyclopedia of social and cultural anthropology. London: Routledge
Fardon, Richard (1990) Localising Strategies: regional traditions of ethnographic writing. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press.

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