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C2 - Anthropology


Mediality and Local Creativity in the Negotiation of Social-Ecological Resilience, Collapse and Reorganisation

Research Areas:
Cultural Anthropology
Principal Investigator:     

Prof. Dr. Dorothea Schulz

In recent decades crises and catastrophes on the African continent have been at the centre of media coverage at the global and the national level. The comprehensive mass media coverage of social-ecological ruptures of African SES has not only contributed to apocalyptic visions of sub-Saharan Africa, but has also informed national and global policies about what was (and is) perceived as environmental challenges. Simultaneously, however, overtly positive images of harmonic human-environment relations were developed, and African landscapes were depicted as a good of a globalizing world in need of everyone’s protection. Such positive narratives are often linked to the marketing of African sites for global tourism. Due to the increasing accessibility of global media messages such narratives are locally received (heard, read and seen). We regard this reception process as a creative process in which various sub-groups of a population selectively identify new ideas about environmental challenges and about possible remedies to local problem constellations. Media messages and media engagements can be seen as the product of the crossing of local, national and international narratives of crises, resilience and reorganisation. Texts, concepts, images and other elements of media discourses intertwine and create new messages that, in turn, inform the conditions under which local, national and international interest groups interact and define what they consider the challenges that need to be addressed and remedied.

The sub-project C2 will focus on the interface between global media messages, local media production and local discourses on SES transformations in the Lake Naivasha area in Kenya. Media messages not only portray SES transformations, they also work on solving problems by presenting them or even offering solutions. Of special interest will be the radio landscape and the internet. The project will explore how local actors engage with (and possibly disengage from) transnational or global mass-mediated narratives of an African paradise under threat. Some of these narratives can be traced back to the early colonial period, however, this project, will focus on the past 20 years and historicise narratives selectively. By taking into consideration the local and transnational institutional conditions under which mass-mediated narratives on social and ecological change, crisis and displacement are produced locally the project seeks to contribute to an understanding of how particular media technologies, institutions and global funding structures interact to generate specific narratives on crisis, resilience and reconstitution in sub-Saharan Africa.