While my primary research interests have lead me to explore popular and community communication in Latin America, the volume Popular Media, Democracy and Development in Africa caught my attention. As part of the Internationalizing Media Studies series from Routledge, editor Herman Wasserman brings together a wide-ranging collection of comparative research dealing with popular media iterations spanning the continent. With 55 countries, Africa is home to more than one billion people and has the highest linguistic diversity in the world with more than one thousand spoken languages, making this is no small feat.
As a Professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, Wasserman is well positioned to bring together research on popular media in Africa. He has published widely on media ethics, African and global media and the intersections of traditional media systems and popular culture. He also serves as the editor of Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies. In addition, the book’s 20 contributors bring expertise and first-hand experience in Africa’s media and alternative cultural manifestations to the collection.
Coming as a response to Daya Kishan Thussu’s call for expanding the “discourse on globalization of media and communication beyond Northern perspectives,” the book is organized in four parts, dealing with theoretical implications, democracy and development, audiences, and mediating identities locally to transnational (p. 7). Wasserman states that the goal of the volume is to turn a critical gaze to how popular media in Africa embody these discourses.
Wasserman rightly points out in the introduction that communication theory has long been dominated by Western theory. However, even by setting the scope of the volume to center on discourses of “democracy” and “development” is to take modernization theory as the point of reference, as well as international aid framework of “development.” Continue reading