Tag Archives: Week 3

A Queer Diaspora?

How do diasporic audiences sustain their sense of collective identity and indeed, nationality, through media consumption and production?

There has been a shift in the contemporary notion of diaspora. As Karim notes in his writing on diaspora, the term originally refers to the displacement of the Jewish people outside of Israel and therefore extends to cover all uprooted, usually involuntarily, peoples from their homeland. Then Karim goes on to note that “an ongoing debate about what ‘diaspora’ should denote has accompanied the current attention to this topic. Whereas some scholars have argued in favour of identifying a closed set of characteristics in order to develop social scientific parameters for the study of diasporas (e.g. Cohen 1997), others have acknowledged its use in a broader range of human dispersals (Tölöyan 1996; Cunningham & Sinclair 2000). All diasporas do not have homeland myths at the centre of their consciousness, contrary to William Safran’s suggestion (1991).” (Karim, pg. 8). In Karim’s work he is careful to remind the reader of the common sociological definition for diaspora, as “limited to ‘non-white’ peoples who remain distinct as minorities in their new countries of residence” (Karim, pg. 9), but is also quick to provide the counter-example of Irish-Americans, who retain a distinct and visible cultural identity in the American landscape. While addressing the fact that various diasporic communities have faced very different trials and tribulations, not limiting the scope of what qualifies as diaspora allows for an interesting analysis of identities under the generally accepted tenants that help define diaspora. Karim lays out some of these features: they function as “transnations” and stretch across borders (Karim, pg. 6), they connect through media and other content created by and for the community (Karim, pg. 7), they “exchange symbolic goods and services” to maintain community (Karim, pg. 7), and significantly, they are defined as the “other” and therefore struggle against “structures of dominance” (Karim, pg.15).

So can these features be applied to the queer community? Can we appropriately use the term “Queer Diaspora”? The basis for a queer diaspora is most expertly defined by Wesling, who in her article “why queer diaspora?” looks at Manuel Guzmán’s (1997) concept of “the ‘sexile’, a gay cosmopolitan subject who, once exiled from national space, is therefore outside of the duties, identifications, and demands of nationalism, and is paradoxically liberated into free transnational mobility” Wesling furthers this notion by stating, “queerness and transnational movement are collapsed: queerness constitutes a mobile resistance to the boundaries and limits imposed by gender, and that resistance is the same as the migrant’s movement through national and cultural borders. Put simply, the analogy is this: queerness disrupts gender normativity like globalization disrupts national sovereignty.” This approach nicely aligns theory on diaspora and queer identity, emphasizing the fluid nature of the two. In the same regard, as Morgan mentions in her discussion of queer diaspora, it’s precisely this fluidity that makes both terms difficult to define. Before delving into drawing parallels between the two, it’s important to note that as there is a multitude of diasporic communities with varying histories, there is also a multitude of queer identities that seek to avoid or subvert definition. Acknowledging this as truth, we can start examining notions of a queer diaspora through the features of diaspora that Karim discusses and that are outlined above.

Queer identity first and foremost is not constrained by location. Queer communities have emerged across the globe and are visible or non-visible as dictated by their environment. Despite a greater struggle for queer individuals in some parts of the world as opposed to others, there is no corner of the globe in which queer individuals do not exist. Increasingly, as for members of other diasporas, interconnectivity amongst the queer community has flourished due to the advent of the internet and other forms of global communications. This leads into how queer individuals maintain a broader sense of a queer identity through forms of queer media, particularly media produced by queer individuals, whether that be LGBTQ content on major sites such as The Huffington Post or Buzzfeed, to queer news sites such as Autostraddle or Queerty, to the wide number of queer blogs and forums. These forms of media tend to show a diverse range of voices and opinions within the queer community, and when gaps in representation appear in the larger discussion on queer issues, they are often acknowledged and filled by those underrepresented in the community. While addressing intersections within the queer community may appear divisive, it also seeks to inform the community at large that as there are commonalities, there are also differences. These differences do not break down the community rather they solely provide different lenses from which to examine queer identity. Though identity may be tighter among other diasporic communities, it does not preclude them from divisions over their lived experiences, i.e. an Iranian-American and an Iranian in Japan must also reconcile their differences as they live in very different contexts, despite both being ethnically Iranian. Most significantly is that, despite these differences, the common denominator for all queer individuals is that they face grappling with “otherness.” This is the key link between queer identity and diaspora. The idea of “other” reinforces a queer culture, one which pushes against the dominant culture. While recent successes of the gay rights movement have sought to fold queer individuals (re: wealthy, white, gay men) into the folds of the dominant culture and claim victory, there is still a large number of queer individuals (re: women, transgender individuals, people of color, the poor, mentally and physically handicapped) who continue to exist on the periphery. The queer diaspora may shift in response to changes in the nation, but it still remains. Queer-focused media reflects this shift and seeks to further it by addressing the most pressing issues amongst the queer community, just as any other diasporic media seeks to update its content to reflect how the community reenvisions itself in the contemporary age.

Karim, K. (2004). Re-viewing the ‘national’ in ‘international communication’: Through the lens of diaspora. In The Journal of International Communication, vol. 10 issue 2. University of Southern California.

Media: the Middlemen of Messages to the Masses

If we accept the basic premise that nationalism is sustained by media in some way, does this suggest implications for foreign policy and national security?

The media is a catalyst for providing a sense of unity and identity among cultural subgroups within a multinational-state – a state being political boundaries, and the sense of a shared overarching identity among various cultures within the state, being nationalism.

The concept of media affecting the sense of nationalism within a state, whether the media is free, corporate or politically driven, is undeniable. Media are the middlemen of messages to the masses; no matter whether the implication is positive or negative, or the message is balanced or bias.

Studies and stories about the media’s effect on public opinion and thus policy are numerous. However, it is important to distinguish the effects of these broadcast messages on a country-to-country basis, since those that hold the media’s puppet strings vary, along with their intentions.

Although, as technological advances began to allow international media to penetrate state-sanctioned news and information bubbles, and the messages became internationally influential, some states began working to counteract potential effects through international broadcasts and transnational diasporic communities. To clarify, countries are both “marketing” themselves through specific international state-run media and making efforts to “brand” themselves within foreign countries by maintaining relationships with their ex-pats who live abroad.

In an article published by Karim H. Karim, a professor of journalism, in 2004 that is still insightful today, he expands on the efforts of states “working to nurture the cohesiveness of transnational diasporas for economic and foreign policy reasons,” with specific examples. And points out the importance of “the growing strength of diasporic information flows and their impact.” This impact is on both people in the foreign country in which they live, and through communications with citizens in their home country.

To give a personal example of how the United States is, and has been, working this influence its “brand” internationally is through the federally funded “Voice of America” broadcast that has been running since 1942. It is currently broadcast on radio, TV and through the internet in 47 languages. I used to listen to the Spanish broadcast on my little shortwave radio while serving in the Peace Corps in Paraguay.

Overall, despite the multitude of mediums and the gauge of impartiality, the media remains an influential voice on the masses. And in a “democracy” like that which has developed in the United States, it’s this influence that buys public patronage.

Karim, Karim H. “Re-viewing the National in International Communication: Through the Lens of Diaspora.” The Journal of International Communication 10, no. 2 (2012): 90-109. Accessed September 25, 2015. doi:10.1080/13216597.2004.9751976.

The Trouble with Mediated Nationalism

If nationalism is sustained by media in some way, does this suggest implications for foreign policy and national security?

For the purposes of this post, I’ll focus my thoughts on those that are considered a part of the American nation.

If the above presumption is true, then there are absolutely implications for foreign policy and national security. Western consumers are more able to engage in media now than at any other time in history, and they take advantage of that reality; often to reaffirm and exercise their assumed rights as members of a nation that highly values things like justice and freedom of all sorts. This, however, can (and has) cause conflict that is far-reaching and problematic when it comes to maintaining diplomatic relationships with other nations and ensuring secure conditions for global ambassadors and other such representatives. A poignant example of the implications of media’s role in sustaining nationalism involves depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.

As many people know, to create visual depictions of Islam’s most revered figure is generally discouraged. Knowing this, many western media participants take it upon themselves to do just that in the name of exercising their “freedom of speech.” Hate speech-loving Pamela Geller sponsors “Draw the Prophet” contests and publishes anti-Islam books (another medium used to perpetuate nationhood) while countless social media users share and like inflammatory graphics and “facts” about other countries all in the name of exercising a national right of expression. Geller’s event, not surprisingly, has been targeted by assailants. By using the media to proclaim an allegiance to the ideals of a particular nation, these people severely jeopardize domestic stability and global cooperation in a variety of contexts. Presumably, foreign service security protocol has to be amended in the face of domestic scandal that serves only to ostracize other nations.

Diasporic audiences find validation in media

By: Carlos Diaz Barriga

Representation matters.

As a Mexican immigrant living in the United States, to sustain my collective identity, while also try to attain some sense of American nationality, I need to see my community being represented in the media of this nation.

That is easier said than done. I mean, some might even argue that Latinos are already all over the media.

Sofia Vergara is on Modern Family! Shakira is on top of the music charts! I saw Salma Hayek on a movie last week! J.Lo!!!

But if you take a closer look at the statistics, you’ll find the opposite.

A 2014 report from Colombia University, called “The Latino Media Gap: A Report on the State of Latinos in U.S. Media”, found that “Latino participation in mainstream English-language media is stunningly low. A review of the top movies and television programs reveals that there is a narrower range of stories and roles, and fewer Latino lead actors in the entertainment industry today than there were 70 years ago.”

The way diasporic audiences can sustain their home identity, while also feel like they belong in their new nation, is through accurate and visible representation in mainstream media.

It’s not enough for Mexican-Americans to just have Univision. It’s a necessary network, as it will keep them up-to-date with news from “home”, but they also need to see their culture being represented on US-centric networks such as CNN or MSNBC.

The same report from Colombia University states that “stories about Latinos constitute less than 1% of news media coverage.”

The ‘niche’ media helps build stronger “imagined communities”, whether those are nations or diasporas, but mainstream media needs to be inclusive of other nationalities.

No nation in the world is comprised solely of born-citizens; we all have immigrants in our countries. The so-called “global networks” need to reflect this.

Karim H. Karim says it best: “No contemporary analytical framework of international communication that seeks to be comprehensive can legitimately exclude diasporas.”