Article

Makeovers Made Over: Ubuntu and Decolonization in Reality TV

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.

Abstract

Narratives about Africa are often shaped by deficit discourses that frame “development” as an instrument for advancing the interests of global capitalism. From within this neoliberal view, Africa has to “catch up” to and “be taught” how to emulate and achieve the standards promulgated in mainstream media. Through the lens of an alternative realism, however, such narratives can be reshaped. The African philosophy of ubuntu is one example of a deeply relational ethic from within which development can be reconceptualized as “freedom” in terms of democratic ideals and which can be used as a guiding principle for media work and the refashioning of (reality television) images.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the author.

Article
Full-text available
While studies on African narratives have concentrated on studying mainstream media, there is still little study on studying these narratives about Africans on alternative media. This study used a systematic literature review to establish the interplay between alternative media and African narratives by exploring journal articles published between 2006 -2021 and using 15 published articles as a unit of analysis for this study. The findings from the study indicate that social media plays a crucial role as a platform for alternative media where audiences can engage with one another without fear of victimization through using the comment and reply sections on social media platforms. The results further point towards critical media theory and ubuntu as important theories in studying alternative media and African narratives. Scholars have focused majorly to study social media usage in political activities by youths in Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa as alternative media. Therefore, this study furthers the literature on alternative media and African narratives.
Article
Full-text available
There are three major reasons why ideas associated with ubuntu are often deemed to be an inappropriate basis for a public morality in today's South Africa. One is that they are too vague; a second is that they fail to acknowledge the value of individual freedom; and a third is that they fit traditional, small-scale culture more than a modern, industrial society. In this article, I provide a philosophical interpretation of ubuntu that is not vulnerable to these three objections. Specifically, I construct a moral theory grounded on Southern African world views, one that suggests a promising new conception of human dignity. According to this conception, typical human beings have a dignity by virtue of their capacity for community, understood as the combination of identifying with others and exhibiting solidarity with them, where human rights violations are egregious degradations of this capacity. I argue that this account of human rights violations straightforwardly entails and explains many different elements of South Africa's Bill of Rights and naturally suggests certain ways of resolving contemporary moral dilemmas in South Africa and elsewhere relating to land reform, political power and deadly force. If I am correct that this jurisprudential interpretation of ubuntu both accounts for a wide array of intuitive human rights and provides guidance to resolve present-day disputes about justice, then the three worries about vagueness, collectivism and anachronism should not stop one from thinking that something fairly called 'ubuntu' can ground a public morality.
Thesis
Full-text available
The May 13th, 2000 issue of the Economist, the influential British weekly magazine, has become famous for symbolizing how Africa is represented in the Western media. Aside from that week’s cover, which boldly described Africa as the “Hopeless Continent,” the lead article stated: “The new millennium has brought more disaster than hope to Africa. Worse, the few candles of hope are flickering weakly.” This ‘hopeless’ representation of Africa in the Economist, and indeed in most other Western media outlets, has persisted since the late nineteenth century during the era of slavery and colonialism. Africa has been known as the needy “dark continent” characterized by primeval irrationality, tribal anarchy, civil war, political instability, flagrant corruption, incompetent leadership and managerial ineptitude, hunger, famine and starvation as well as rampant diseases (Michira, 2002). This dominant representation of Africa in the Western media usually ignores the actualities and specificities of social and economic processes that occur in the continent (Jarosz, 1992). This representation also ignores the many political and economic success stories that have been taking place in the continent, especially in the last three decades. Although how Western media represents Africa has received a lot of academic and media coverage over the years, what is remarkable is that the issue stills persists even today. In this dissertation, I will investigate why Western media have chosen to maintain its colonial representation of Africa. I will review relevant literature, presenting different arguments on the representation of Africa in the Western media. I will then argue that Western media’s viewpoint on African issues has outlived its usefulness. My hypothesis is that Western media has chosen to maintain its centuries-old, colonial representation of Africa as a helpless, war-torn, poverty-stricken and corruption-infested continent despite recent political and economic growth and development in Africa.
Article
Full-text available
We examine how the makeover paradigm is mobilized in contemporary humanitarian communications—a practice we call “humanitarian makeover.” We demonstrate its operation in the Finnish television programme Arman and the Children of Cameroon and Plan's 2013 International Day of the Girl event. The analysis shows how helping distant others is configured within a makeover and self-transformation narrative, providing a stage for performance of an “ethical self.” We argue that while the humanitarian impetus is to disturb and redress global inequality and injustice, which includes exposing and interrupting the failures of neoliberalism, the makeover paradigm is intimately connected to and reinforces individualized “moral citizenship,” which conforms to and reinforces neoliberal values.
Article
Full-text available
Different narratives around the Marikana massacre of August 16, 2012 have emerged in the South African news media with regard to what actually hap- pened, what the underlying causes of the strikes were, and who is to blame. Criticism has been levelled against the mainstream news media with regard to embedded journalism, sensationalised coverage and polarisation of views and stakeholders. For this article, an analysis of news articles on Marikana published in the mainstream South African news media has been conducted. This analysis confirms many of the findings of earlier research and I argue that the form of reporting evident in these findings conforms to what has been labelled “war journalism.” I argue that the coverage of Marikana could have been improved by adopting “Peace Journalism” as a model for reporting.
Article
Full-text available
More than any other form of media, reality television has reignited interest in celebrity discourse because of the genre’s incorporation of ordinary people and the conflation of ordinariness with raw, real emotion. This article argues that reality TV is part of an emerging “emotion economy” that generates unique forms of celebrity by producing and circulating heightened emotional performances as “branded affect.” A key signifier of what reality TV is and is becoming, branded affect underscores the commodification of emotion in the contemporary media landscape and the changing nature and meaning of celebrity.
Article
Full-text available
The concept of ubuntu, like many concepts, is not easily defined. Defining an African notion in a foreign language and from an abstract, as opposed to a concrete approach, defies the very essence of the African worldview and may also be particularly elusive. Therefore, I will not attempt to define the concept with precision - that task is unattainable. In one's own experience, it is one of those things that you know when you see it. Therefore, like many who have written on the subject, I will put forward some views that relate to the concept itself. However, I can never claim the last word. I intend to put forward some thought-provoking ideas on ubuntu and its relation to South African law in general, the South African Constitution, and customary law in particular, as a way to initiate debate for ubuntu-ism in a new jurisprudence for South Africa.
Book
The book investigates emerging forms of media solidarities in the digital era. The concept of solidarity has gained new due to globalization, individualization and the weakening of the welfare states that have made both the need and acts of solidarity more visible than before. With rich combination of social and political theory the book offers coherent understanding and definition of media solidarities with wide range of international case studies from news media to reality television; from social documentaries to social meidactivism. With particular focus on emotions and affect it offers nuanced view to understand and critically analyse the representation, participation and production of contemporary solidarities and their political implications.
Article
Efforts to decolonise societies, and in particular the field of higher education in South Africa, have frequently been framed in terms of “dismantling” strategies. This article examines the ethico-cultural assumptions implicit in this idea and shows that it derives from a realism of what Michael Karlberg (Beyond the Culture of Contest. Oxford: George Ronald, 2004) calls “normative adversarialism”, where power is negotiated conflictually and contests, struggles, and protests are seen as natural and inevitable strategies of social organisation. Such approaches are unattractive, as they effectively deepen coloniality rather than unravelling it. The African moral philosophy of ubuntu provides a very different realism, where processes of decolonisation can be framed as evolutionary, developmental, and integrative. Through the lens of ubuntu, decolonisation can be reimagined as a constructive process of resilience that significantly transcends coloniality. As such, this article also provides a non-exhaustive discourse analysis of how and to what end some decolonisation debates shape and are informed by various understandings of power.
Book
Contemporary democratic discourses are frequently, though not exclusively, characterized by an attitude of ‘pro and con’ where the aim is to persuade others, a jury or an audience, of what is right and what is wrong. Challenging such procedures, this book teases out an alternative model of public discourse that is based in collaboration and deliberation. The African philosophy of ubuntu offers valuable insights in this regard as it implies relational notions of power that contrast and complement individualist facets. It provides the space to think and speak in ways that support harmonious and cohesive societal structures and practices. The book’s model of communication rests on the premise that the various interests of individuals and groups, while richly diverse, can be conceived of as profoundly bound-up rather than incompatible. In this way communication enables broader lines of action and a wider scope for achieving diversity and common ground.
Chapter
Against the backdrop of a global refugee crisis, an ever-increasing gap between rich and poor and dismal environmental forecasts, the headlines that dominate contemporary news reports are often characterized by division and polarization, as “fear”, “conspiracy” and “paranoia” (see Munusamy, 2017, n.p.) beset the public. “The problem”, some say, “is no longer simply paralyzing partisanship. The danger at the moment is … a kind of tribalism”, and such divides aren’t simply between left and right: “Instead, there are schisms within the parties, and in some cases schisms within schisms” (Seib, 2017, n.p.). These divisive tendencies are in some ways reflected and amplified by the media who, in turn, reduce what are essentially complex interrelated issues into over-simplified frames that boost ratings and make the consumption of information easier. Political debates, talk shows and many other forms of public discourse, even those that resist a commercial focus in favour of an ethos of public journalism, are frequently characterized by agonistic modes of communication that posit and challenge, persuade and argue, betraying deeply conflictual assumptions around the way in which we perceive human relations.
Article
Karlberg discusses the use of adversarial framing of environmental issues by the media. The article centers around the use of frames in media, especially the adversarial frame. Adversarial frames are defined in this article as featuring a stereotyped duality and the amplification of confrontation. Differences are reported without the consideration of motivations and interests. Economic issues take precedence over other issues. This frame ignores any attempt at cooperation or mutualism as well. An interesting theory is stated here positing that the adversarial frames focus on extremism actually leads to more extreme tactics in attempts to gain media and public attention. Citing Habermas' concept of the Public Sphere, Karlbeg calls for a dialogue model of media reporting.
Article
This book investigates intractable conflicts and their main verbal manifestation - radical disagreement - and explores what can be done when conflict resolution fails. The book identifies agonistic dialogue - dialogue between enemies - as the key to linguistic intractability. It suggests how agonistic dialogue can best be studied, explored, understood and managed even in the most severe political conflicts when negotiation, mediation, problem solving, dialogue for mutual understanding, and discourse ethics are unsuccessful. This approach of viewing radical disagreement as the central topic of analysis and conflict management is a new innovation in this field, and also supplements and enhances existing communicative transformational techniques. It also has wider implications for cognate fields, such as applied ethics, democratic theory, cultural studies and the philosophy of difference. This book will be of great interest to students of conflict resolution, peace and conflict studies, ethnic conflict and International Relations in general.
Article
Human life is characterised by violence to such an extent that pessimists may be justified to say it is better to never have lived. In contradistinction the author claims that because life is characterised by violence it is worthwhile that the African moral philosophy of ubuntu says people should seek the beautiful, great and good. He contends that over, against and within the violence that defines the condition of being human, ubuntu is open to the varied uses of cooperation and violence in pursuit for the beautiful, great and good. À la Terence, the argument is made here that Africans are human and all things human are possible for Africans.
Article
In this article, I address some central issues in journalism ethics from a fresh perspective, namely, one that is theoretical and informed by values salient in sub-Saharan Africa. Drawing on a foundational moral theory with an African pedigree, which is intended to rival Western theories such as Kantianism and utilitarianism, I provide a unified account of an array of duties of various agents with respect to the news/opinion media. I maintain that the ability of the African moral theory to plausibly account for issues such as proper content, investigative ethics, and freedom of speech means that it should be taken seriously by media ethicists and merits being paired up against competing approaches in future work.
Article
This article takes as its point of departure the recent massacre of striking miners at the Lonmin mine at Marikana in North-West Province, South Africa. The shooting, in which 36 mine workers were killed, was an attack on civilians by state forces unprecedented in the democratic era. The incident received wide local and international coverage. In this article the author argues that the reporting of the event demonstrated how the professional routines of journalism and the orientation towards audiences are related to the position of the mainstream news media within social and political discourses in the country. The author goes on to explore the normative questions raised by the reporting of the event, against the background of the role of the news media in a new democracy. The concept of 'listening' is proposed as an ethical alternative to the current dominant normative frameworks for journalism in the country.
Article
This article presents the concept of reflective solidarity as an ideal of feminist coalition. Reflective solidarity is defined as the mutual expectation of a responsible orientation to relationship. Situating itself among other feminist efforts to theorize connections after identity politics, the article builds from a critical appraisal of recent work by Shane Phelan (1994), Lee Quinby (1994), and Donna Haraway (1991). It argues that these works contribute significantly to feminist theory when they are understood in the context of communication and dialogue. The remainder of the paper develops this context through an analysis of the communicative underpinnings of the word “we” and through the development of the concept of the perspective of situated, hypothetical thirds.
Article
In this article I argue that although the notion of identification with media characters is widely discussed in media research, it has not been carefully conceptualized or rig- orously tested in empirical audience studies. This study presents a theoretical discus- sion of identification, including a definition of identification and a discussion of the consequences of identification with media characters for the development of identity and socialization processes. It is suggested that a useful distinction can be made be- tween identification and other types of reactions that media audiences have to media characters. A critical look at media research involving identification exposes the in- herent conceptual problems in this research and leads to hypotheses regarding the antecedents and consequences of identification with media characters. The impor - tance of a theory of identification to media research and communication research, more broadly, is presented. When reading a novel or watching a film or a television program, audience members often become absorbed in the plot and identify with the characters portrayed. Unlike the more distanced mode of reception—that of spectatorship—identification is a mechanism through which audience members experience reception and interpreta- tion of the text from the inside, as if the events were happening to them. Identification is tied to the social effects of media in general (e.g., Basil, 1996; Maccoby & Wilson, 1957); to the learning of violence from violent films and television, specifically (Huesmann, Lagerspetz, & Eron, 1984); and is a central mechanism for explaining such effects. As Morley (1992) said: "One can hardly imagine any television text having any effect whatever without that identification" (p. 209). The most promi-
Article
The central question of this conference is whether the media can contribute to high quality social dialogue. The prospects for resolving that question positively in the “sound and fury” depend on recovering the idea of truth. At present the news media are lurching along from one crisis to another with an empty centre. We need to articulate a believable concept of truth as communication's master principle. As the norm of healing is to medicine, justice to politics, critical thinking to education, craftsmanship to engineering, and stewardship to business, so truth-telling is the news profession's occupational norm. Truth-telling is the ethical framework that fundamentally reorders the media's professional culture and enables them to enrich social dialogue rather than undermine it. Historically the mainstream press has defined
Article
Little theoretical work from non-Western perspectives has entered the epistemological discussion of universal ethical principles for media and journalism. The increased analysis of media globalization requires a closer examination of the ethical principles being advocated by media theorists. We use postcolonial theory to argue that advocates of universal media ethics need to take into account the history of colonialism, differences of powers between nations and peoples, and the importance of indigenous theory. We contend that in the non-Western world underlying conditions of postcoloniality and indigenous values influence how media professionals and journalists make ethical decisions. These interpretations present an epistemic challenge to dominant ethical concepts based primarily on Western Enlightenment philosophies. The article concludes with a discussion of two specific ethical theories, ubuntu from South Africa and ahimsa from India, which illustrate the importance of indigenous knowledge in the search for global media ethics.
Article
This transitional period in our history is the opportune time for all our institutions to take stock and ask hard, soul-searching and fundamental questions about who they are, which knowledge is crucial and important, what are the consequences of knowledge and research to future generations in the shaping of thought, values and society, what are the unique features of these institutions in Africa today? In what ways these features can best be exploited to shape the people of this continent and the world in the future(Makgoba, 1997:182).
Article
In this article we provide a theoretical reconstruction of sub‐Saharan ethics that we argue is a strong competitor to typical Western approaches to morality. According to our African moral theory, actions are right roughly insofar as they are a matter of living harmoniously with others or honouring communal relationships. After spelling out this ethic, we apply it to several issues in both normative and empirical research into morality. With regard to normative research, we compare and contrast this African moral theory with utilitarianism and Kantianism in the context of several practical issues. With regard to empirical research, we compare and contrast our sub‐Saharan ethic with several of Lawrence Kohlberg’s views on the nature of morality. Our aim is to highlight respects in which the African approach provides a unitary foundation for a variety of normative and empirical conclusions that are serious alternatives to dominant Western views.
Article
This article attempts to innovate an approach to ethics that treats radical justice as the raison d’être of ethical journalism. Radical justice concerns not just the treatment of the means of collecting and distribution of information but how this is accountable to the realization of the ‘talents’ of people. The approach offered holds governments accountable by proposing a form of public sphere in which ‘communicative action’ allows the maturation of the voice of the citizenry and which is anti-essentialist and audience centred. Communicative action deals with moral imperatives and the creation of freedom in which radical justice is realized. African debates on the topic are critically examined in relation to European discussions, and the idea of a specific Afriethics is critiqued, as are the concepts of ubuntu (communalism), communitarianism and African values.
Article
A robust and visionary media ethics depends on the normative theory in which it is rooted. Two such paradigms have grown up independently—ubuntu in Africa and communitarianism in Europe and North America. For both, the community is ontologically prior to persons. They serve as an antidote to mainstream libertarianism. Ubuntu as a universal idea solidifi es dialogic communitarianism and keeps it oriented intellectually. Ubuntu's total focus on humans and its insistence on the moral dimension of society produce an ubuntu communitarianism that is the most mature version of any to date. As a normative paradigm for media ethics, ubuntu communitarianism emphasises authentic disclosure for news and moral literacy as the media's mission. Its liberatory journalism empowers citizens to come to agreement about social problems and solutions among themselves rather than depending on the political elite or professional experts.
Book
Preface to this edition, by Steven Lukes Introduction to the 1984 edition, by Lewis Coser Introduction to this edition, by Steven Lukes Durkheim's Life and Work: Timeline 1858-1917 Suggestions for Further Reading Original Translator's Note The Division of Labour in Society by Emile Durkheim Preface to the First Edition (1893) Preface to the Second Edition (1902) Introduction PART I: THE FUNCTION OF THE DIVISION OF LABOUR 1. The Method of Determining This Function 2. Mechanical Solidarity, or Solidarity by Similarities 3. Solidarity Arising from the Division of Labour, or Organic Solidarity 4. Another Proof of the Preceding Theory 5. The Increasing Preponderance of Organic: Solidarity and its Consequences 6. The Increasing Preponderance of Organic: Solidarity and its Consequences (cont.) 7. Organic Solidarity and Contractual Solidarity PART II: THE CAUSES AND CONDITIONS 8. The Progress of the Division of Labour and of Happiness 9. The Causes 10. Secondary Factors 11. Secondary Factors (cont.) 12. Consequences of the Foregoing PART III: THE ABNORMAL FORMS 13. The Anomic Division of Labour 14. The Forced Division of Labour 15. Another Abnormal Form Conclusion Original Annotated Table of Contents
Media Portrayals of Africa Promote Paternalism
  • Andy Baker
Baker, Andy. 2015. "Media Portrayals of Africa Promote Paternalism." The Washington Post, March 5. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2015/03/05/mediaportrayals-of-africa-promote-paternalism/?utm_term=.8b932932562c.
Scales of Justice Reimagining Political Space in a Globalizing World
  • Nancy Fraser
Fraser, Nancy. 2008. Scales of Justice Reimagining Political Space in a Globalizing World. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Beyond the Culture of Contest
  • Michael Karlberg
Karlberg, Michael. 2004. Beyond the Culture of Contest. Oxford: George Ronald.
In African Ethics; An Anthology of Comparative and Applied Ethics
  • Mluleki Mnyaka
  • Mokgethi Motlhabi
Mnyaka, Mluleki, and Mokgethi Motlhabi. 2009. "Ubuntu and its Socio-Moral Significance." In African Ethics; An Anthology of Comparative and Applied Ethics, edited by Munyaradzi Felix Murove, 63-84. Pietermaritzburg: University of Kwazulu Natal Press.
:Ubuntu, African Epistemology and Development: Contributions, Tensions, Contradictions and Possibilities
  • Dalene M Swanson
Poverty Porn: Welcome to Your Five-Star Shack Hotel
  • Marelise Van Der Merwe
Van der Merwe, Marelise. 2013. "Poverty Porn: Welcome to Your Five-Star Shack Hotel." The Daily Maverick, November 11. https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2013-11-11-poverty-porn-welcome-to-your-five-star-shack-hotel/#.WqPGPJNuY6g.