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Free Content Looking backward, looking forward: African media studies and the question of power

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The emergence and development of communication and media studies in Africa is related to the continent's colonial experience. Concerns with domination and the denial of their right to self-determination under European colonialism gingered Africans into establishing media institutions and to acquiring training to equip themselves with the professional competence and theoretical and methodological tools to enquire into the roles and relationship of modern media and society. To that extent, in the early days, concern with power relations and the desire to bring change played a role in the rise of communication and media studies.

The replications of curricula from Western universities, as well as the training of many African scholars in the field, were major factors in the reproduction of some conservative scholarship in communication and media studies. The importation and imposition of social scientific models of development in the post-independence era resulted in the negative appropriation of the earlier focus of communication and media studies on power relations, but the field has also suffered under-funding and the intimidation and harassment of radical scholarship by some African ruling elites. The ascendancy of a neo-liberal market system has only exacerbated and consolidated domination suffered by Africa in most facets of social life. This paper examines the extent to which the present era has provided communication and media studies in Africa with an opportunity to return to its earlier focus on unequal power relations and how these could be changed.

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Keywords: African media studies; communication; media power; media syllabi; postcolonial education; social change

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

Publication date: 2009-05-01

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