Postcolonial studies and citizen media

Authored by: Bolette B. Blaagaard

The Routledge Encyclopedia of Citizen Media

Print publication date:  October  2020
Online publication date:  October  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138665569
eBook ISBN: 9781315619811
Adobe ISBN:


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Although there has been no explicit scholarly or artistic relationship between citizen media and postcolonial studies so far, this entry will demonstrate that an implicit dialogue between the two fields operates on several levels, including the level of critiquing power, practices and ambiguities in the context of potential commercialization and cooptation. Postcolonial studies is primarily concerned with issues of knowledge production and the power of defining knowledge. It critiques European modernity and argues that it is imbricated with coloniality in as much as European literature and practices of history-writing invented the inherent otherness of the colonized in order to narrate and construct Europe’s own modern self. Postcoloniality and the related field of decoloniality set out to reassess the construction of Europe’s ‘other’, and in so doing free that other from its constructed European image. This reassessment is a “way of knowing, doing and being decolonially … simultaneously engaging in border thinking, delinking and epistemic disobedience” (Mignolo 2013:141). Postcolonial critique brings to light alternative, subaltern knowledge productions and positions, which are not necessarily presented in traditional academic or journalistic form. This entry will thus begin by arguing that the political critiques of postcolonial studies are not only compatible with, but may also be illustrative of the performative, creative and political practices of knowledge production in which unaffiliated citizens engage, thus highlighting points of synergy between postcolonial studies and citizen media as defined by Baker and Blaagaard (2016). The entry proceeds by discussing a number of postcolonial and decolonial practices proposed by various scholars for delinking knowledge production; these, it will be argued, are helpful for understanding practices of citizen media. Firstly, the concept of expressive vernacular, discussed by Paul Gilroy in diverse forms throughout his writings, embodies the practice of remembering colonial culture and continued struggles through art. Secondly, the practice of counter-reading literature and historical accounts, developed by Edward Said (among others), involves reimagining and reconstructing historical narratives. Finally, the entry will return to the concept of border thinking. This is Walter Mignolo’s preferred term for the nomadic and migrant positioning adopted in relation to knowledge production, which may, along with delinking practices, allow for epistemic disobedience, i.e. a rejection of structural subordination of vernacular knowledge productions and formats. Examples of case studies demonstrating how postcolonial practices intersect with citizen media will then be discussed. These will include studies that focus on resistance against the commercialization of the postcolonial cultural industry, a counter-reading of a colonial media of resistance, and an examination of the current use of digital media by postcolonial/migrant citizens to assert their voice in public and create communities in the Netherlands. The entry ends by discussing how these very critiques, practices and expressions continually run the risk of exoticism and essentialism of otherness through cooptation and appropriation within a commercial market economy.

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