Thursday, 14 October 2010

ICSSR-Funded National Conference on De-westernising Media Studies in Tezpur

Dr C.S.H.N.Murthy, Associate Professor in Mass Communication and Journalism,
Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Tezpur University, Napaam, Tezpur Assam 784028 has mailed me the following:

Our Department has organised a ICSSR-funded National Conference from Nov 26-28, 2010 at Tezpur, Napaam. The theme of the conference is
Research Methodology in Journalism and Mass Communication
De-westernising Media Studies
Concept of Theme
The need to hold a national level conference on the research methods to be pursued in journalism and mass communication in Indian universities and institutes has been felt for long. The reasons for such a feeling are not too far fetching. Firstly, many scholars in India who are into research/teaching of journalism and mass communication, either pursuing M.Phil/Ph.D or guiding others for M.Phil/Ph.D, are not in a position to publish their work in peer reviewed  international or national journals due to several reasons. One reason being that the Western scholars, who do peer reviewing of Indian scholars’ research work (when submitted to international journals), do not have any grasp on the kind of research problems and research questions which the Indian scholars find appropriate/relevant to the Indian media studies. Secondly, these research papers may suffer from the lack of ‘international references’ within which the peer reviewers expect the ‘research work in question’ and ‘methods’ to be situated. Thirdly, in Western media, there may not be problems or research questions which are identical to the Indian media issues as the cultural differences between India and the US or Europe are vast.
Further, there has been a lingering feeling among Indian research scholars/ Professors, guiding research scholars for M.Phil and PhD programs in media studies, that they have been compelled to follow the Western methods of media research though India, by virtue of its varying cultures and enormous diversity, offers a vast landscape, rather to say ‘mediascape’ in the words of Professor Appadurai, to develop research methods appropriate to native cultures. All this contributed either overtly or covertly to shroud the quality of research wok being pursued in journalism and mass communication departments in Indian universities/institutes.

Further, some scholars in India, trained in the US/UK, believe that Indian research in journalism and mass communication lacked in the ‘rigors of methodology’ to be acceptable as a standard work compatible with western methods (such as quantitative techniques as one can put it politely) of research into media studies. Therefore a lot of research work being carried out under M.Phil/Ph.D programmes in India goes unreported in any peer reviewed journals of repute such as Media Asia, Asian Journal of Communication (published by NTU, Singapore) or Global Media and Communication (published by Sage)Some of the reviewers’ of these journals clearly show a western bias in their ‘peer review’ comments.
In fact, long ago J.S.Yadava (1980) proposed a research method called ‘Sadharanikaran’ to study the issues related to Indian media research.(Yadava, J.S. (1987). Communication in India: The tenets of ‘Sadharanikaran’. In D.L. Kincaid (Ed.), Communication Theory: Eastern and Western Perspectives, pp. 161- 171. San Diego, CA: Academic Press).
In the last 18th AMIC (Association of Media Information and Communication) International Conference held in New Delhi last year (Oct 17-19, 2009), many eminent speakers such as Professor Epem and Professor Binod C Agarwal exhorted the need to develop research methods in media studies relevant to the Indian national and regional contexts. In fact Professor Epem and Professor Kiran Thakur even argued for focusing research on ‘regional media’ than on ‘national media’. Both of them expressed the view that ‘the eagerness of the media scholars and their supervisors to focus research on national media or mainstream media’ is marginalizing the importance of ‘regional media’ which in fact is churning out more content in different formats than the mainstream media.
The need for having an indigenous research methodology for media research (-ers) in India is not an exclusive view held by a few of Indian scholars. James Curran and Myung Jin Park in their famous work ‘De-westernizing Media Studies’ (2000 Routledge) makes the case that the study of media should strive to extricate itself from ethnocentric perspectives, essentially western in orientation and hue, and seek-as Curran says in his ‘Introduction: Beyond Globalization Theory’-to broaden ‘media theory and understanding in a way that takes account of experience of countries outside Anglo-American Orbit.’ (Watson J:Media Communication-An Introduction to Theory and Practice. 2nd edition. 2003). Prof.Daya Kishan Thussu of University of Westminster, London and Prof.Indrajit Banerjee of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore were a few more eminent speakers who advocated the need to ‘de-westernize the media studies’. (D.K. Thussu: 13-31, 2009) and recourse to local paradigms.
There are several laterals to this complex but highly important issue. Firstly, media scholars of European countries have abandoned rather rejected the quantitative methods of Professor George Gerbner in media research (Divina Frau-Meigs: Media Regulation Self-Regulation and Education in Ed. Cecilia von Feilitzen and Ulla Carlson  in ‘Promote or Protect?’ , p27: 2007).
Most of the scholars in the Europe pursuing research in media studies are pursuing qualitative communication research techniques (Euro-Atlanta Model of Research) and yet could manage to produce high standard research work worth publishing in international journals.  They formed their own regional (among European nations) and national level (country wise) editorial teams and journals (e.g. Nordicom Journal Edited by Ulla Carlsson, Romanian Journal of Journalism and Communication edited by Raluca Radu, Quaderns del CAC Edited by Montilla Castillo Silva, Journal of Communication Studies Edited by Joao Carlos Correia, etc), which gained the international acceptance both at the level of international and national conferences/publication of journals and papers. 
Though India is ten times larger than the European Union, we have not yet developed a national level body of eminent media scholars from different universities to constitute an editors panel for a national level peer reviewed journal/conference. In fact such media scholars’ panels could be constituted even region wise also for different peer reviewed media journals and peer reviewed conferences.  Nor we are in a position to formulate a national level consensus on relevant research methods to be pursued in media research. As a result of this, most of the media research, barring a few, is not getting published in any international journals.
The present conference is therefore very much pertinent at this time to invite eminent media scholars and Professors together with media academics and professionals to discuss the issues-identified under sub-themes given below, threadbare as to why we, in India, are unable to identify appropriate research methods relevant to Indian media studies at the height of the campaign emanating from elsewhere calling for ‘de-westernizing the media studies’. Such a discussion and consequent emerging consensus not only lead for an introspection of the quality of research work being pursued in Indian media studies but also pave the way for formulating national standards in research on media studies.
The conference, further, expects to form a panel of editors to establish a peer reviewed international journal with the collaboration of Sage or Taylor and Francis (Routledge) from India side. It also engages a debate on the need to bring a consensus among the media scholars and Professors as to the relevance and necessity to follow the quantitative techniques involving distributive statistics in the media studies. It also acts as an important platform to discuss as to how the media scholars have to overcome the lack of ‘reference materials’ which would have otherwise placed their work in international situation/broad scenario.
At present there is a great dearth of ‘reference materials’ for researching on Indian media issues as also on different/diverse cultural aspects of India. Most of the ‘reference materials’ available in India are largely published in the West on Western media issues, and therefore, may not be relevant in terms of ‘research methods’ we need to follow in respect of Indian media studies. For instance an analysis of Indian reality shows can not be based on the reference materials or published works produced by the British or the US media scholars on the reality shows which are shown in Britain or the US. In fact the Western research approaches to the Internet content or social networks cannot be applied to Indian social networking as our social networking has a different cultural ethos and limitations of content.
The conference, therefore, proposes to lay out  unambiguous terms for initial normative research in different fields of media studies in India without relying first on any bulk ‘reference materials’ or ‘previous literature review’. After a few years of publishing such works, perhaps, Indian scholars could develop ‘reference materials’ relevant to the Indian media studies.
The conference therefore would like to deliberate on the above theme with the following sub-themes in the form of paper presentations and panel discussions during the three days of the conference.
1.       What could be de-westernizing media studies and how to use it in terms of the following research areas? Content analysis, Analysis of Rhetoric and Whistle blowing with reference to survey methods and triangulation methods, ethnographic studies, etc.

2.       What could be the theoretical frame works sufficient enough to examine local paradigms such as Regional Print/Electronic Media –Comparative studies on format, structure, web and hard copy selection of news content, news production processes, influence of market, politics and others on news production in news rooms, regulations, ethics, etc.

  1. What could be native methods of research on Regional Cinema/National Cinema?-Comparative studies in film studies in terms of film forms, narratives, genres, theories and aesthetics, semiotics and cultural studies.

  1. What could be the appropriate research methods for Cultural studies –Comparative studies and Cross cultural communication-Fashion, Life Styles, Internet, Semiotics & traditions, cross cultural trends, Religion, Tourism and Travel, etc. with emphasis on ‘nation-state’ and ‘container’ theories of cross cultural settings. Application of concepts of de-westernizing and internationalizing media research.

  1. How should the native research methods relate to Communication research in other fields: Agriculture, Health, Science and Technology, Business and Sports, etc.

Call for Papers (CfP)
Extended abstracts/proposals for panel discussions are welcome from media scholars –faculty and professionals-pursuing media research in India or on fellowships from abroad on any of the following sub-themes, but not limited to them, in not more than 1200-1500 words.   For submission of an abstract/proposal for a panel discussion Ph.D is neither a mandatory requirement nor considered an important eligibility. What is required is full participation of academic fraternity in media research with serious scope and concern for this them/sub-themes.
These abstracts could be on the current methods applied in their research or their illustrative understanding of the appropriateness of research methods concerning specific domain or area enlisted in the sub-themes above.
Senior faculty members who have considerable insight into media research though do not hold a Ph.D or M.Phil, and emeritus Professors who had guided scholars for Ph.D programmes in the past are also welcome to send the abstracts/proposals for the conference on the above lines.
The abstracts/proposals should clearly state the following:
i.                     The area chosen for the study
ii.                   The level-regional or mainstream
iii.                  Which methodology is suitable for the chosen area of media studies by the scholar? Is it own methodology or duplication of other scholars’ methods?
iv.                 Why (justification)?
v.                   Does it require ‘de-westernized’ approach or does it fit into the existing western models of research in media studies?
vi.                 Does the chosen area of media research get relevant ‘references’ within Indian context?
vii.                How far the western referencing is helpful for the research in chosen area?

The abstracts and proposals should be sent to the Convener: C.S.H.N.Murthy Ph.D, Associate Professor in Mass Communication and Journalism, Department of Mass Commuunication and Journalism, Tezpur University, Napam, Tezpur 784 028 Assam, India. or
Schedule of Conference
Due date for Submission of Abstracts/proposals for panel discussion: Oct 31, 2010
Notification of acceptance of abstracts:  Nov 5, 2010
Due date for submission of full papers not exceeding 3000 words: Nov 15, 2010
Registration  Fee Rs. 1250/-per person
Those willing to participate may kindly send a Registration fee of Rs. 1250/- in the name of The Registrar, Tezpur University, Napaam 784 028 Tezpur Assam India  and e-mail the copy of the DD along with your willingness to participate/present paper in the conference to the convener: Dr.CSHN Murthy, Associate Professor in Mass Communication and Journalism, Tezpur University, Tezpur at the e-mail id: / registering them to attend the conference. Last date for receiving the registration fees is Nov 1st,2010.
They must give the following details in their e-mail without fail.
1. Name 2. Designation 3. Student/Research Scholar/Research Guide 4. Will present an abstract/paper at the conference? 5. Will only participate in conference as a delegate? 6. Title of the abstract/paper to be presented 7. E-mail id 8. Mobile No for Contact 9. Full address to contact. 
The Registration fee to be paid on or before the deadline Nov 1, 2010 to enable us to make arrangements for your accommodation and food.

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