Theme: Rethinking borders and boundaries

Rethinking borders and boundaries

Beyond the global/local dichotomy in communication studies

The normalisation of global/local differences blocks many alternative ways of seeing the world, restricting us to the past –with its binaries of colonialism/anti-colonialism, white/black, developed/developing– and obscuring complexities that are both global and local, or even simply universal.

Nevertheless, the advances in technology that have altered the way information circulates around the world are challenging this global/local binary and enabling us to imagine new spaces and territories outside the global/local divide. Global processes can have local materialisations, and vice versa, an articulation captured in the concept of glocalisation.

We are in an era of new identities and discourses beyond the global/local and must keep glocalisation and translocality on our research agenda, and study, for instance, new ways nations and individuals appropriate the global to construct themselves locally, but also how what is created at the local level can move to the global.

These transformations can also have negative impacts. Global communication problems – from soft-censorship of mainstream media to deep fakes, bots and data privacy breaches – can impact on the local, generating local forms of de-democratisation. The worldwide rise of illiberalism and populist authoritarianism can be seen as a global dystopia arising from local realities, amplified by both social and legacy media. Similarly, in addition to enmity between nations, we are seeing, in different parts of the globe, nations ideologically at war with themselves.

The conference theme is a search for transformations that are global but with local bearings, and those where the local moves towards the global. Can boundaries be seen as portals, offering a post-global and post-local vision? How have transformations of the modes of communication enabled the local to disrupt the global?

The theme is open for a wide range of ideas dealing with, but not limited to, the following specific sub-themes:

1. The rebirth of populist discourses

The world has witnessed the transformation of politics with the rise of modern populism after decades of the post-ideological consensus. Populism is no longer a developmentalist bottom-up movement; rather, it has become a logic of governance, mainstreamed by, for example, the economic nationalism of Donald Trump, so that this discourse about ‘the people’ is now used by the people. There are similar nationalist populisms in Africa, where the right-left dichotomies are unclear. Against this backdrop, we are interested in papers and panels on the communication of populism, and how communicative transformations support populism, such as the technologies that stimulate misinformation and disinformation, reducing public confidence in traditional structures and increasing hyperpolarization, intolerance, illiberalism and various forms of ethnonationalism.

2. Activism and the new global social justice movements

Activism has opened up on various fronts. Brazil’s Amazon fire protestors, student strikes for the climate, democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, Black Lives Matter, the Yellow Vests in France, and the global #MeToo movement all show that the battle for human rights is manifest and intense again. While failures in global and national governance on issues such as climate change and human rights have produced action by citizens clamouring for a better and fairer world. Illiberal groups use the same tactics to support their efforts. What sense can we as communication scholars make of these movements?  How do they fit into the historical trajectory of social movements, and their relation to media? What is the role of digital media in modern day activism? Do local activists use media to globalise, and how? Does technology enable transnational activism and build global solidarity on common issues or does reproduce difference?

3. Trends in global media ecosystems 

The world of international communication is changing rapidly. In the same way that Cold War tensions shaped global communication, recent changes have partly unblocked global/local differences by offering alternative ways of reaching international audiences. The difference between global and local is narrower than before. However, the technological transformation has not removed global disparities in content; the global(ising) North dominates, even as the South has become more innovative. We welcome papers on a variety of ideas such as international media (mis)representation of disease and disaster in North and South; the social construction of the immigrant, refugee and race ‘threats’; the ‘South’ in the ‘North’, the turn towards corporate and digital colonialism; re-Orientalism of the Orient and the post-colonial desire of the exotic; global trends that support local inequality and de-democratisation; as well as resistance and success stories from the global South.

4. Identity: Gender, class, ethnicity, religion, sexuality...

Gender, class and ethnicity, as social constructions, continue to determine the quality of life across the globe. Although these constructions have been theorised from various perspectives – post-colonial, feminist, Marxist, phenomenological, among others – the events surrounding the coronavirus pandemic have (re)opened new lines of inquiry and representation of the social inequality both in the North and South. We are interested in papers that relate the pandemic with transnationalism and its contradictions: possible areas include media representation of local/global minorities in the time of COVID-19, disinformation and (anti)minority vigilantism, global conspiracy theories, the paradox between whiteness and racial privilege at the global level and minority entitlement at the local level, transnational movements that focus on disablism/ableism, postcolonial and self-othering texts, staging of cultural and religious erasure among others.

5. Communication for development in health, climate change and education

Global transformations have changed ways of establishing and sustaining international relations among nations, peoples and processes. Yet globalisation remains connected to various social, cultural and economic contexts, hence lending credence to the existence of global-local realities. This sub-theme attempts to establish the nexus between glocal communication trends and development practice in the realm of contemporary issues of the environment and climate change, health information systems and education and sustainable social transformation. We welcome papers that push for the understanding of the challenges and opportunities that global technological trends create for local communities and document some of the potential opportunities of glocalisation and their corresponding challenges in development practice.

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