Indigenous Media: Self-representation, identity politics and cultural activism



Seminar for BA and MA students,
University of Bern
(HS 2017, 5 ECTS points)

Since the invention of media technologies, indigenous communities around the world have been the focus of a diverse array of media productions. Many of these communities have since recognised the potential of creating their own audio-visual media as well as voicing collectively shared thoughts, concerns and demands within and beyond their own communities. Since the 1970s, when technological devices became increasingly accessible, and with the initial support of social anthropologists like Sol Worth or Terence Turner among many others, indigenous communities have turned from subjects to producers of media contents. How do indigenous media practitioners challenge dominant politics of representation? Who and what constitutes being “indigenous” in definitions of indigenous media and who has the right to tell whose stories? And finally, what is the role of social anthropologists in engaging with and presenting voices and visions of indigenous communities? In this course, we will study the history and theory of indigenous and community-based media productions situating them as social practice and as text. From local community radio and television stations, to costly Hollywood productions with global reach, we will look at ways in which media turned into a political, social as well as cultural strategy to appropriate as much as challenge dominant images and imaginaries of indigenous people and communities initiating central debates on ideas of authenticity, authorship as well as cultural and political empowerment.

Selected Readings:

Banks, Marcus and J. Ruby, Jay eds. (2011)
Made to be seen: Perspectives on the history of visual anthropology. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press. 

Ginsburg, Faye D. & Lila Abu-Lughod, Brian Larkin eds. (2002)
Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain. Berkeley: University of California Press.  

Landzelius, Kyra (2006)
Native on the Net: Indigenous and Diasporic Peoples in the Virtual Age. London & New York: Routledge. 

Roth, Lorna (2005)
Something New in the Air: Indigenous Television in Canada. Montreal: Mc Gill Queens University Press.

Wilson, Pamela and Michelle Stewart eds. (2008)
Global Indigenous Media: Cultures, Poetics, and Politics. Durham & London: Duke University Press.