Nov 30, 2009

Subaltern Education Entertainment

One of our readings for this week was Mohan Jyoti Dutta’s “Theoretical Approaches to Entertainment Education Campaigns: a Subaltern Critique.” The reading used a subaltern studies perspective to analyze entertainment education campaigns, particularly in the realm of health care. Dutta begins by stating that E-E campaigns are the most used health care communication campaigns aimed at the Third World, and that E-E is a currently a hot topic in international communication scholarship, but lack a critical and interrogative approach.

Dutta argues that E-E campaigns are implemented under the guise of altruism, but really are created with the core countries’ values and ideologies in mind. Dutta extensively uses USAID as an example, citing the national security mission statement in several of USAID’s documents. I can see how this example supports Dutta’s claim that most E-E campaigns are implemented with the core countries’ best interests in mind. The USAID example surprised me since I guess I just always assumed that USAID was trying to do some good in other parts of the world. Then again, it’s not like the USAID documents that Dutta cited were hidden. USAID doesn’t seem like it is attempting to cover up any of its motives.

Dutta extensively discussed population control as a major area of a core country’s way of “fixing” a problem in a periphery area. While the examples Dutta discussed were, of course, extreme (like forcing black schoolgirls in South Africa to receive a contraceptive injection or performing a sterilization without the woman’s consent), I think Dutta made population control out to be more evil than I think it actually is. I think that everyone, whether in a core or periphery area, should have the right to use contraceptives and the availability of family planning education, as long as they give their consent.

When I first started reading about E-E campaigns, the idea made me a little nervous. Since the message (or “education”) is embedded with the entertainment, consumers are not really aware that they are consuming a strategic message complete with the ideologies and values of the sender’s culture. But then again, every message is like that. And while I completely agree that E-E campaigns should be looked at more critically, I also feel that we should not stop promoting health care education in periphery areas; we should find ways to do it more responsibly.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting...I am a fan of EE, and I actually enjoyed these readings. However, after reading your last paragraph, I never considered the fact that the subjects of EE may not know that the objective is to be informed and educated. For instance, I wonder if many viewers of "All In the Family" understood the underlying purpose of the main character's aggressive use of racial slurs?? On the other end, the purpose of EE is to be a pleasurable form of communication. Besides, without EE outlets like youtube and movies many people may never be exposed to historic facts and current events.