Dec 3, 2009

E-E Campaigns

I'm all for Dutta's "subaltern critique" of entertainment-education campaigns. To the extent that he exposes the hegemony-reinforcing tactics of E-E campaigns and the need for subaltern voices in the policy-making phases of these campaigns, I support him. However, I take issue with his criticism of population control as the E-E campaign topic of choice to the exclusion of those fundamental needs articulated most by the subaltern voices. Dutta himself notes that this lack of resources and extreme poverty are due to structural issues within the country, rather than issues of individual agency. While I agree that sending kids to bed with a full stomach is a more urgent goal than preventing the birth of more kids, I disagree with Dutta's implication that access to food and water should take the place of population control in E-E campaigns if only for the simple question of how can E-E campaigns resolve structural resource issues? As Singhal and Rogers define them, E-E campaigns by definition, aimed at the masses, are designed to bring about behavioral and social change. For instance, Dutta notes that "As members of marginalized sectors of the world, participants discuss problems of joblessness, corruption, and exploitation that are intrinsically connected with being poor," presumably to argue that such topics should be the focus of E-E campaigns before population control. Yet which of these topics can be affected by the masses (educated through entertainment), non-elites with little to no power to influence the E-E campaigns directed at them, let alone structural or institutional changes, by changing their behavior on an individual level?

I am not so much arguing in defense of population control being the primary focus of E-E campaigns, as supporting the idea that this message and its designed outcomes fit the medium better than the ones Dutta puts forth. There is perhaps an argument to be made that less resources overall should be directed at E-E campaigns, and more to addressing structural inequities. But Dutta's article, while contributing to Melkote's notion of greater grassroots participation in policymaking, takes population control to task yet fails to provide a compelling argument for an alternative topic that is more pressing AND suits the medium of E-E campaigns.

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