The geopolitical anthropology of media
What would a geopolitical anthropology of media entail? In other words, how would one go about studying anthropologically (and not just ethnographically) the relationship between power, culture and geography in the emergence of contemporary media ecologies?
A tall order, to be sure. Just thinking aloud here, as demanded by the blog genre. I’m interested in comparing the media trajectories of different geographical regions in the global South, e.g. South America, Africa, Southeast Asia. But I don’t want this investigation to be just about the political economy of media in different states (Brazil, Nigeria, Malaysia, etc) – although this would certainly be an integral part of the inquiry. What I have in mind is a study that lies at the intersection between geopolitics and a historical anthropology of media. I wish to explore questions such as:
* What’s the relationship between telecomms infrastructures and media ecologies in emergent economies?
* What part have major city-regions (Sao Paulo, Lagos, Kuala Lumpur…) played in the development of distinctive national and regional media cultures?
* How do states in the global South manage, if at all, the flows of media technologies, personnel, content, etc. across interstate borders?
* What kinds of media battles have broken out between regional powers, and how do these relate to the interests of multinational firms and extra-regional powers? Do major players from the North battle over the ‘media resources’ of Southern states? If so, in what ways?
* How do fiber optic and mobile telephony networks compare to gas and oil pipelines, transport networks, etc, in the strategic plans of regional players, including the major powers (EU, US, China)?
* What sorts of regional forms of cooperation have emerged around broadcasting, internet, mobile and other technologies? Have these had any significant impact on national and regional media ecologies?
* How do the distinctive political cultures of neighbouring states (e.g. Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia) shape, and how are they shaped by, the media?
Erm, I think I’ll stop the brainstorming there. It’s 00:58 in Kuala Lumpur and I’ve a flight to catch tomorrow morning.