Monday, 31 May 2010

NTU Journals: Climate Change and Affect

When Simon Dawes not working on his PhD thesis at NTU, he works as an editorial assistant for the sister journals Theory, Culture and Society and Body and Society, and is also responsible for the content on the website, blog, Facebook and Twitter sites. Here he reports on some recent issues of the journal.

To accompany the new TCS special issue on Changing Climates (TCS vol 27, issue 2-3, May 2010, edited by Bronislaw Szerszynski and John Urry), I’ve been busy working with the contributors to the issue on collating extra material for our website that could be of interest to readers. The double issue demonstrates how social science can help to illuminate the very nature of the challenge of climate change, and gathers papers by some of the world's leading authors working on climate and society (Ulrich Beck, Mike Hulme, Elizabeth Shove and Brian Wynne among them). The contributors trace the way that climate science has been produced, organised, mobilised and contested, and explore the relationships between climate change, politics, global inequity, financial turbulence and even life itself. For the extra material, we’ve so far got an extensive bibliography of climate change texts, and links to podcasts of interviews and talks, as well as a host of other material on related projects, events and articles. We’re hoping it will serve as a valuable resource to anyone in the social sciences interested in climate change.

We’ve also just published on the site an interview I conducted with Lisa Blackman, Mike Featherstone and Couze Venn, as a supplement to the current issue of Body and Society (vol 16, issue 1, March 2010, edited by Lisa Blackman and Couze Venn), which doubles as a special issue on Affect and as the relaunch issue of the journal. The issue focuses on the significance for body-studies of the ‘turn to affect’ that has taken place across the humanities and the social sciences, particularly in terms of a re-engagement with perception, sensation and memory, and explores the role of different versions of affect in the theorising of the body. Articles featured are by Constantina Papoulias & Felicity Callard, Julian Henriques, Valerie Walkerdine, Erin Manning and Patricia T. Clough, as well as those by Blackman, Featherstone and Venn. In the online interview, the editors discuss the significance of affect to their own research, as well as the future theoretical and methodological direction of the relaunched journal. I’ll be conducting more interviews with editorial board members and special issue editors of both journals in the near future.

Subsequent issues and sections in
Body and Society on bodily integrity, medicine, and animation and automation, and in TCS on Ricoeur, Megacities, Simmel, and Code and Codings, are all in the pipeline, and there will be many more interviews and much more extra material available on the website to accompany them, so keep checking the website and blog for new developments.

Monday, 17 May 2010

The world cup, football-speak and national identity

NTU linguist Dean Hardman reflects on the status of 'football talk' in anticipation of this years World Cup.

When the football world cup comes around once every four years, it seems like the nation is gripped by World Cup Fever. Not only is there wall-to-wall coverage of the actual matches; extra television programmes devoted to talking about the matches are aired, while football permeates every other televisual and media genre. Football, already the advertising vehicle of choice for a whole range of brands and products, is used to promote everything from soft drinks to washing powder, from credit cards to chocolate. There doesn’t seem to be a product or service whose brand managers don’t see the world cup as a prime opportunity to increase brand awareness.

Clearly these advertisers are drawing upon the high level of interest that the world cup generates among otherwise casual viewers of the game. Everyone during a World Cup, especially but not exclusively when a home nation is involved, has an opinion on football. These range from the team and game-specific: “Rooney’s injury holds the key, they’ve got to play 4-4-2”, to the more general: “England have got no chance”, and from the positive: “I’m so excited about tonight’s game”, to the negative: “I can’t believe they’ve cancelled Eastenders for this.” Whether the speaker or writer has any specialist knowledge or not, or whether their opinion or comment is positive or negative doesn’t really matter: all this shared focus on football and talking about the world cup helps to reinforce social identities and helps us to construct a shared sense of group identity. Ultimately this might be a shared sense of Englishness that talking about the England team creates. However, it might just as easily be a shared sense of Scottishness when talking about a strong desire to see England fail, or a shared anti-football agenda.

Casual viewers also begin to draw upon the footballing lexicon for the first time in four years. “Beating the offside trap” is inserted awkwardly into sentences, alongside the notion of “hitting a barn door with a banjo” or “making an impression early doors” as “squeaky bum time approaches”. The Ivory coast might need to “shut up shop”, while everyone wants to know who will survive the “group of death”. Again, having a shared national footballing lexicon to delve into also helps to oil the wheels of communication and reinforces a sense of national togetherness and cohesion.

Whatever one’s feelings are towards the world cup, it is absolutely unavoidable. It is going to be all but impossible to spend the month of June in the UK without being bombarded with images of footballers selling ice-creams, or hearing colleagues speak, sometimes inarticulately, about events in South Africa. At the same time, though, for one month only, talking about football becomes a key way in which vast swathes of the population signify membership of a whole range of social groupings and identities. For a limited time only you need never be stuck for something to say, it’s the event that we can all feel part of.

(Image: mrfrogger; permissions)

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Narratives on Migration and Transnational Media

After a week in which immigration has surfaced as one of the key issues dominating election coverage in the UK, Olga Bailey offers an overview of her article on media representations of migration, 'Narratives on Migration and Transnational Media: crises of representation?', which she has co-written with Sonia De Nelson. The article will be published later this year in T. Threadgold, B. Gross and K. Moore (eds), Migration and the Media (New York: Peter Lang).

Debates on issues of migration have had perennial importance in national and international arenas and figure prominently in the political agendas of wealthy nations and in the transnational public media spheres. The migration debate was mainly reframed in the post 9/11 attacks interconnected to a ‘global crisis’, underpinned by economic and political issues, focusing concerns on national security, the threats to western culture and its economic impact on receiving western countries. The mainstream media has predominantly covered these debates echoing these concerns and constructing immigration as a national threat, thereby alienating and making alien populations who do not possess the necessary symbols of national belonging. Since 2008, due to the global economic crises, immigration coverage in the mainstream media has been mainly interlinked to the consequences of the economic crises in western societies. In discussing the effect of the economic crisis for international migration, Castles and Vezzoli point out that the media have widely reported on the visible effects on new migration, migrant employment, remittance flows and on attitudes of destination-country populations (2009: 69). The current rhetoric links migration debate to the economic crises in topics such as reducing recruitment of migrant workers because of growing unemployment, to governments’ actions on immigration management to regulate the borders and wider aspects of the life of immigrants, including access to jobs, welfare services, family reunification, and ultimately integration and the acquisition of citizenship. These measures aim to demonstrate to their political constituency they are acting in minimizing the crisis.

In this chapter we look at coverage of migration issues in the BBC news online services. Our focus is on the ways in which otherness interweaves with migration issues. Our assumption is that stories about immigration form an important arena through which ideas about the immigrant ‘other’ are expressed and reproduced.This in turn forms a wider context to our discussion as it is connected to the debate over the changes of the practices of transnational journalism generated by technological, economic and cultural factors. We have chosen the BBC News and BBC Mundo news online for two reasons: First, for its significant role as a public service in the transnational media landscape and its impact on public opinion and, consequently, on governmental policy processes. Second, for its high journalistic standards - accuracy and impartiality – which are recognised by a global audience. The aim is to provide a snapshot of the ways news on migration is presented in both sites. The paper first discusses the challenges faced by journalists working in transnational outlets, and then presents the BBC journalist’s news practices and its relevance to an understanding of the present production of migration stories. The last part provides examples of the representation of migration in BBC. 
(Photo credit: LoopZilla. Permissions)