Sep 14, 2009

Analysis Question: Culture and Political Economies

“Do you think the "political-economy" concerns that have driven much of the debate in IC research over the past decades are still relevant? If so, why? Or, do you think that other kinds of questions should be the focus of researchers and policy-makers?”

When I first applied to American University’s Masters program for International Media, I was not really thinking about International Communication in terms of “political-economy.” I have no background in political science, international relations, or economics. My background is in film and media studies, and sociology/anthropology, so when I think of International Media, I think of culture.

Culture is what draws me to international studies, media studies, as well as travel. I like learning about different cultures around the world, what makes us different in addition to what makes us all the same. The readings we have read so far have definitely addressed culture as a crucial aspect of international communication, but maybe not to the extent that they should. I think that when we discuss the differences between different political economies across the globe, what we are really discussing is differences in culture. The way I see it, culture creates the political-economy, and it is therefore that we should be asking questions in terms of culture and cultural differences, not in an ethnocentric way, favoring one culture over another, but as cultural relativists judging cultures by their own standards.

While I personally find culture to be one of the most relevant (and for me the most interesting) concerns in International Communication research, I still think that political economy is relevant and important. A part of the political economy concern that keeps coming up in our readings that really interested me is the notion of “empire.” Many of the international communication scholars that we read about last week like Innis, Carey, and Thussu describe communications as a way of maintaining control over an empire. The word conjures images of antiquated ruins, old statutes of emperors, etc. When I think about the posed analysis question, “are these concerns still relevant?” my first answer is that empires do not really exist anymore. But wait, do they? Are global super-powers like the United States and China considered empires? Is democratization a kind of empire? And if empires are really a thing of the past, what about the effects of post-colonialization?

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