Time to Get the Conversations Going
by Bruce Mutsvairo
It’s all about dialogue, after all. Several scholars have for decades studied African media and communication studies. I therefore didn’t set out to outdo these fine academics’ works. Instead, I wanted to create an opportunity to celebrate their efforts through a commutable conversation. I wanted to appraise current and conventional studies in the aforementioned disciplines through a dialogue between a mixed bag of 21st Century Afrocentric media and communication scholars.
Several scholars working in African countries have for several years been adamant that Western publishers unfairly reject their proposals. In other words, they for a long time have felt that there is no room for them to discuss their scholarly dispatches in Western publishing outlets. Palgrave, at least in media studies, has quietly challenged these notions. And The Palgrave Handbook of Media and Communication Research in Africa somehow, albeit unintentionally, sets the record straight – 18 of the volume’s 32 contributors are African-based media and communication academics. The presumed dominance of South African-based scholars is also pinpointedly put to test - five of the 18 African-based contributors are based elsewhere across the continent other than the political and economic powerhouse, South Africa, and eight of the contributors are either based in Nigeria or have Nigerian roots. It’s perhaps fair to say you rarely read about Somalia. Nicole Stremlau’s chapter on law and innovation in Somali territories was an attempt to bring fresh approaches by examining case studies that are mostly left out in collections such as this. Furthermore, a wide array of topics and their relationship to media and communication research were examined. These include, among several others: technopolitics of communication technologies (Iginio Gagliardone); Gender (Krstin Skare Orgeret), Decolonization (Ylva Rodny-Gumede, Colin Chasi and Beschara Karam); Boko Haram (Chris Wolumati Ogbondah and Pita Ogaba Agbese); political economy (Ruth Teer-Tomaselli); surveillance (Jane Duncan); diaspora (Everette Ndlovu). Other chapters like Muhammed Musa’s or Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u’s analysed the everyday use and adoption of the interdisciplinary methodologies ethnography and discourse analysis from an African perspective.
More importantly, I was mindful of the outright dominance and linguistic bias of Anglophone scholarship in Afrocentic communication and media studies so I roped in Susana Salgado, a Lusophone expert, who comparatively discussed the paradoxes and challenges facing the combined fields, along with Christian Agbobli, whose co-written chapter with Marie-Soleil Frere gave an account of post-coloniality and the challenges facing Francophone media and communication research. Not to be outdone, emerging Francophone media studies specialist Touissaint Nothias wrote about epistemic resistance in the discipline while Belgian academic Katrien Pype based her chapter on several years of ethnographic research in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Furthermore, Mirjam de Bruijn, another Francophone specialist, teamed up with Inge Brinkman to assess the impact of the mobile phone communication across the continent. I obviously wanted a balanced volume, representing all empirical and epistemological voices.
Communication and media research have gone through a number of changes over the years and this collection provides an opportunity for more experienced academics including the likes of Ruth Teer-Tomaselli, Jane Duncan, Herman Wasserman, Mohammed Musa and others to work with emerging scholars like myself, Nothias, Susanne Harris and Leyla Tavernaro-Haidarian, among several others. This is important because millennials or ‘wanna-be’ millennials often do things differently, hence the need to bring in more experienced hands. Better still, the book offered an opportunity for scholars to collaborate or at least promote the culture of academic collaboration. To my own surprise, Zimbabwean-born Last Moyo, who has been active in media studies for several years, told me a co-written chapter I did with him was his first attempt at a collaborative gig. After ours, there will be many other handbooks in media and communication research but I, along with all contributors in this volume, am clearly happy to have set the tone. I know my good friends Winston Mano and viola milton are already working on another volume. We look forward to reading and continuing the conversations. My goal personally is to champion Africa’s voice in media and communications. If no one does that, we will be fed with misinformation and misconceptions, most of which are not in tandem with African cultures and contexts.
Bruce Mutsvairo (PhD, Leiden) is an Associate Professor in Journalism at University of Technology Sydney, Australia. The Palgrave Handbook of Media and Communication Research in Africa is available now.