Herman Wasserman, “The Ethics of Engagement: Media, Conflict and Democracy in Africa” (Oxford UP, 2020)
New Books in African Studies

Hello, world! This is the Global Media & Communication podcast series.

In this episode, our host Yuval Katz discusses the book The Ethics of Engagement: Media, Conflict and Democracy in Africa (Oxford UP, 2020) by Herman Wasserman.

You’ll hear about:

The ethical and methodological challenges of studying media in Africa;

Why democratization is not a linear process;

What tools journalists have at their disposal to support processes of democratization;

Reflections on the professional conduct of journalists and what they can do to be more attentive to the needs of ordinary people;

Why conflicts are not necessarily detrimental to democracy;

Some tips and advice for early career scholars studying the Global South.

About the book

The book discusses the relationship between media, conflict, and democratization in Africa from the perspective of media ethics. Despite the commonly held view that conflict is a destructive political force that can destabilize democracies, the argument in this book is that while many conflicts can indeed become violent and destructive, they can also be managed in a way that can render them productive and communicative to democracy. Drawing on theoretical insights from the fields of journalism studies, political studies, and cultural studies, the book discusses the ethics of conflict coverage and proposes a normative model for covering conflict and democratization. The book argues for an “ethics of listening” that would enable the media to help de-escalate violent conflict and contribute to the deepening of an agonistic democratic culture in contexts of high inequality, ethnic and racial polarization, and uneven access to media. This argument is illustrated by examples drawn from recent events in African democracies such as student protests, community activism, struggles for resources, and social media conflicts. The book also scrutinizes the media’s ethical roles and responsibilities in African societies by considering questions regarding journalistic professionalism, ethical codes, and regulation in the context of rising misinformation. The book provides a critical African perspective on global debates about media, politics, and democracy and the media’s ethical commitments in contexts of conflict. You can find the book here.

Author: Herman Wasserman is a Professor of Media Studies and Director of the Centre for Film and Media Studies at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He is the author of several books, has published widely on media, ethics and democracy in Africa. His awards include the Georg Foster Prize from the German Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, a Fulbright Fellowship and the Neva Prize for Journalism Theory from the University of St Petersburg, amongst others.

Host: Yuval Katz is a postdoctoral fellow at the Annenberg School for Communication with a joint appointment at the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication (CARGC) and the Center on Digital Culture and Society (CDCS). His work inspects how media help us rethink the relationship between people involved in intractable, violent conflicts. He is currently writing a book titled In Search of a Medium: Palestinian and Jewish Encounters in Media Texts and Industry Practices, where he examines Israeli media spaces in which Israeli Jews and Palestinians collaborate creatively.

Editor & Producer: Jing Wang

Keywords: Africa, Agonism, Democratization, Journalism Studies, Listening, Media Ethics, Peace

Our podcast is part of the multimodal project powered by the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication (CARGC) at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. At CARGC, we produce and promote critical, interdisciplinary, and multimodal research on global media and communication. We aim to bridge academic scholarship and public life, bringing the very best scholarship to bear on enduring global questions and pressing contemporary issues.

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