Media, Communication Technologies, and the Promises of “Democratization” Across Asian Mediascapes

Title: 1292 | Media, Communication Technologies, and the Promises of “Democratization” Across Asian Mediascapes
Area: Border Crossing and Inter-Area
Stream: History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Donald Santacaterina, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, United States (organizer, presenter)
Nicole Huang, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (chair, discussant)
Ipsita Sahu, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India (presenter)
Yuji Xu, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong (presenter)
Julia Behrens, Humboldt University, Germany (presenter)


Shifting applications of media communication technologies have often put communities across Asia "at the crossroads" of evolving news cultures, social values systems, definitions of citizenship, and
conceptions of "democracy." But despite twentieth century theorizations which prophesized that communication technologies would open borders, improve educational opportunities, and serve as a
democratizing force across the globe, local realities often stood at odds with such predictions. As forces of globalization across the second half of the twentieth century brought television technologies to Indian consumers, socialist methods of news dissemination to illiterate Chinese audiences, and a bewildering variety of foreign radio broadcasts to diverse groups of regional listeners across Asia and Europe,
producers and consumers of media alike struggled with contradictory visions of how communication technology would contribute to "democratizing" processes within the narrow political parameters of the Cold War. Through a closer look at the "mediascapes" of local and transnational communities, this panel reveals how an interplay between the propaganda techniques which informed media content and the fluid ways in which consumers appropriated such media often gave rise to competing visions of identity and nationhood in practice. Chaired by media expert of "political soundscapes" Nicole Huang, this panel brings together scholars from India, Hong Kong, the United States, and Germany to elaborate on the role of such a dialectic between communication technology and shifting concepts of "democratization," both across physical borders of nation-states and across this diverse range of historical "mediascapes."

Panel Abstracts:
Mixed Signals in Global Radio Propaganda: The BBC, the Voice of America, and Divisive News Cultures inthe People's Republic of China, 1947-1978
Theorizations of Chinese propaganda systems which emphasize the domineering nature of propagandain the People's Republic of China's (PRC) during the high socialist period (1949-1978) often ignore theconsiderable role of foreign radio propaganda in shaping domestic Chinese news cultures, providing onlya partial answers to "whether and how people in various historical settings will accept certain ideas, andthe political institutions behind them, as legitimate." This paper uses archival sources from the UnitedKingdom and America to explore Mandarin and Cantonese language radio operations of the BritishBroadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the "Voice of America" (VOA) from 1947-1978. In particular, thispaper questions the various institutional and cultural priorities which defined each organization as theyattempted to establish the legitimacy of their news broadcasts (and the political opinions enmeshedwithin such news) among Mandarin and Cantonese-speaking audiences who tuned in to regionalprogramming. As these "enemy" radio broadcasts reached listeners directly through radio sets, indirectlythrough word of mouth, or through echoes in state media which often responded to "enemy" radionews, such broadcasts contributed to the development of domestic values systems which defined howChinese consumers marked the legitimacy of both foreign and domestic media. By reconsidering thedetermined "public diplomacy" efforts of the BBC and the VOA as an integral part of domestic Chinesepropaganda systems, this paper emphasizes the transnational nature of news cultures which have longbeen considered only on domestic terms, but actually developed in tandem with more globalinformational ecosystems.

Arrival of Television in India: Governmentality and Infrastructure
My paper looks at the arrival and expansion of educational television in India between late 1950s and early 1980s, i.e., before television entered the color phase and became a more nationwide phenomenon in India. Prior to this, television in the formative-experimental stage was located in five major urban cities of India and in 1975 was also established in rural India through satellite transmission. I locate the consolidation of early television within the context of cold war politics, national emergency, and developmentalism that characterized Indian political landscape during this time. I will be analyzing primary materials such as government files, official committee reports as well as seminar reports to map ministerial maneuvers and international financial networks that crucially negotiated the development of the expensive broadcasting media at a time of severe economic scarcity and political turbulence. This would also entail an analysis of the cultural authority of science in the first three decades after independence and its linkages to the growth of television. I use the framework of “techno-politics of infrastructure” (Larkin, 2013), to map a complex field of ideas, people, financial and institutional exchanges, involved in staging the “promise” of television as an expensive “aid”, an object of state-science and renewal, during a period of political and economic breakdown in India in the late 1960s.Larkin, Brian, The Politics and Poetics of Infrastructure in Annual Review of AnthropologyVol. 42:327-343 (Volume publication date October 2013)Murray Li, Tania, Governmentality in Anthropologica Vol. 49, No. 2 (2007), pp. 275-281

Communist Soundscape in Mao's China: The Newspaper Reading Group and Chinese PoliticalModernity
This paper focuses on the historical origin, development and significance of newspaper reading groups inearly socialist China and examines a handful of visual material, literary works and newspaper archivesthat described this cultural practice, whilst asking questions about Chinese political modernity and thedevelopment of mass and popular culture. Established in Yan'an in the 1940s, the newspaper readinggroup played a crucial role in the top-down grassroots mobilization and political education by deliveringthe Party's political instruction as well as domestic and foreign news, which resonated with Mao Zedong'sdiscourse of a "Mass Line." Rather than considering newspaper reading group as a pure propagandisticmechanism, this paper instead views it as a democratic (media) technology which reconstructed therelationship between elite intellectuals and the broader masses in imaginative and practical ways. At thefirst superficial level, newspaper reading group leaders, who were usually highly-educated, organized thepopulace to discuss selected topics and to propagate their own ideas. Anyone with a good command ofcommon knowledge could volunteer as a new leading reader for others. In a sense, newspaper readingsappeared as a transformative way to gradually shape a populace with low-literary skills into new mastersof knowledge. At a deeper level, an "audio turn" in the newspaper reading group meant that thedissemination of knowledge via the spoken "mass language" overcame the visual obstacle, namely, thewritten language. As a result, the newspaper reading group contributed to a particular communistsoundscape where the subjectivity of the masses emerged.

Tieng Que Huong: Voices of Democratization and Citizenship
Vietnamese contract workers were an important work force for the GDR. For the Vietnamese contractworkers, the possibility to work abroad for a period of time was a chance for them as well as for theirfamilies who hoped for remittances. Becoming residential in the country of their contract was notintended from either state side, in contrast social segregation of Vietnamese workers from the localpopulation ought to restrain integration and the will to remain. In total 60.000 Vietnamese came to theGDR of whom 25.000 stayed long-term. The breakdown of the GDR and reunification of the twoGermanys was a time of high uncertainty, for Germans but also for the contract workers whose legalbasis of staying ceased and was not replaced by new regulations until 1997. In the liminal year of 1990, aradio program from a cooperation of the two states was established for Vietnamese in Germany. "Thevoice of home" was broadcasted in Vietnamese language in the whole of GDR. I analyze this radioprogram and ask, what ultimate purpose it had and how the relationship between people-country oforigin-host country was identified in its concept. What was the program used for by whom? Also,discussion about democratization took up space in the program and allows us to draw the conclusionhow 1990 was a year of political uncertainty and opportunities for change in Vietnam. This could be havebeen the deepening of a political doi moi which was hardly realized in the following years

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