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Reviews: Theorising Media & Conflict

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This post compiles extracts of published reviews of the edited volume Theorising Media & Conflict (eds. P. Budka & B. Bräuchler, Berghahn Books, 2020).

Younes Saramifar (Free University Amsterdam) notes in the journal Media, War & Conflict

The editors upend the conventional and normative approaches limited to discourse, visual, content, reportage or policy analysis through anthropological analysis and ethnographically rooted methodologies. By way of telling ethnographic narratives and edited via a thorough theoretical inventory of current debates, the authors argue that a non-media-centric approach traces how the complexities of media technologies, sensory perceptions and social life are interrelated (p. 9). In other words, this volume encourages scholars and media researchers to think about how media becomes social and how it produces the social fabric of conflict.

They [the editors] have broadened the notion of conflict beyond the limits of contentious clashes and push readers to see conflict through lived experiences and everyday encounters. They aptly show how articulations and representations of conflicts in the news or other media platforms differ from witnessing and experiencing conflict.

There are wonderful ideas and reminders across the book hidden like Easter eggs, making reading a theory-driven academic volume a jubilant experience.

Overall, Theorising Media and Conflict is a promising and path-opening contribution to media and conflict debates which have ignored conflict ethnographies and interdisciplinary conversations for too long. This volume is a welcome addition to security and war studies, communication, journalism and social sciences at large. All students who wonder how to study conflict without coming under fire could highly benefit from this book.

Saramifar, Y. (2021). [Review of the book Theorising media and conflict, by P. Budka & B. Bräuchler]. Media, War & Conflict. https://doi.org/10.1177/17506352211004012


Christine Crone (University of Copenhagen) comments in the Global Media Journal

The book urges us to acknowledge the importance of ethnographic methods if we are to understand the integration and mutual constitutive power of media and conflict in the twenty-first century. Rather than looking at media and conflict as two separate spheres, the overall aim is to investigate media-related everyday practices in contexts of conflict as social processes.

Half of the contributions are made up of anthropologically informed media research and the other half consists of qualitative media and communication research and thus attempts through its structure to establish a dialogue between the two traditions on how to study media and conflict. This approach allows for new and inspiring ethnographic material that offers an insight into everyday media practices of people who live and navigate in this decade-long conflict while new media technologies change the ways of communication.

The volume brings new perspectives to the table and helps us move our attention from quantitative evaluations of the role of media in conflicts to the everyday media practices in conflict areas. This sets us free to investigate the fascinating interlinking and interplay between the two – or rather to dissolve what seems to have become an artificial division of one coherent phenomenon. The book is an ethnographic contribution to the study of media and conflict, adding qualitative research to a field where quantitative studies traditionally have dominated.

Crone, C. (2021). [Review of the book Theorising media and conflict, by P. Budka & B. Bräuchler]. Global Media Journal. http://globalmediajournal.de/en/2021/02/16/rezension-theorising-media-and-conflict/

Review: Digital environments: Ethnographic perspectives across global online and offline spaces

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Budka, P. (2018). [Review of the book Digital environments: Ethnographic perspectives across global online and offline spaces, by U. U. Frömming, S. Köhn, S. Fox & M. Terry]. Anthropos, 113(1), 303-304.

The edited volume “Digital Environments: Ethnographic Perspectives Across Global Online and Offline Spaces” is a collection of 16 essays by students and graduates of the M.A. Programme in Visual and Media Anthropology at the Free University Berlin. This is the first special feature of the book. The second is the anthropological and ethnographic perspective from which the individual texts discuss a diversity of digital technologies, platforms, services as well as related sociocultural phenomena, events and practices. As Sarah Pink in the book’s foreword notes, these texts and the underlying projects “focus on central issues of the discipline … through the prism of visual and media anthropology” (p. 10). Being not part of the anthropological mainstream, this visual and media anthropology perspective holds the potential of providing exiting new insights in digital culture and our increasingly digitalised societies. The digital ethnography perspective, on the other hand, focuses on “the ways in which technologies have become inseparable from other materialities and human activities” including ethnographic fieldwork, as Urte Undine Frömming, Steffen Köhn, Samantha Fox and Mike Terry note in the introduction chapter (p. 15).
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Review: Handbuch der Medienethnographie

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Budka, P. (2017). [Review of the book Handbuch der Medienethnographie, by C. Bender & M. Zillinger]. Paideuma. Mitteilungen zur Kulturkunde, 63, 303-307.

Der Sammelband „Handbuch der Medienethnographie“ bietet einen Einblick in ein aufstrebendes und im deutschen Sprachraum noch zu wenig beachtetes Forschungsfeld. Ethnographie wird in diesem Buch vor allem als Methode in der qualitativen Medienforschung verstanden und die Autorinnen und Autoren, allesamt erfahren in der ethnographischen Feldforschung, wurden von der Herausgeberin Cora Bender und dem Herausgeber Martin Zillinger aufgefordert, individuell zu reflektieren, „wie sie selbst im Feld vorgegangen sind, um Medien und Medienpraktiken zu erforschen“ (xi). Diese Reflexion über die eigene Forschungspraxis ist laut Bender und Zillinger charakteristisch für die Ethnologie als „ethnographische Königsdisziplin“ (xii). Mittels dichter Beschreibungen aus unterschiedlichen ethnographischen Forschungsfeldern will der Band mit seinen Beiträgen auch die Verbindung zwischen Empirie und Theorie in der Ethnologie in den Blick nehmen. Schwerpunkte bleiben dabei die subjektiven Erfahrungen der Feldforscherinnen und Feldforscher als Fremde, die unter spezifischen Bedingungen in bestimmten Lokalitäten in Austausch mit Menschen treten, um die entsprechenden Interaktionsprozesse schließlich zu interpretieren.
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Review: Unmasking deep democracy: An anthropology of indigenous media in Canada

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Budka, P. 2015. Review of Unmasking deep democracy: An anthropology of indigenous media in Canada, by S. B. Hafsteinsson. Aarhus: Intervention Press, 2013. Social Anthropology, 23/2: 240-242.

In the book’s introduction Sigurjon Baldur Hafsteinsson declares that the anthropological study which resulted in Unmasking Deep Democracy will, on the one hand, challenge the anthropology of visual communication and, on the other hand, contribute to the sub-discipline’s arguments. The anthropology of visual communication, like the anthropology of media, focuses in particular on the relational aspects and characteristics of (visual) media, such as television. This volume is about indigenous television in the Canadian context. By analysing communicative and journalistic practices of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) it aims for gaining an insight into the sociocultural agency of indigeneity and its (media) politics.

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Review: Cyberidentities at war: The Moluccan conflict on the Internet

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Budka, P. 2015. Review of Bräuchler, B. Cyberidentities at war: The Moluccan conflict on the Internet. New York & Oxford: Berghahn, 2013. American Anthropologist, 117/1: 179-180.

Birgit Bräuchler’s book Cyberidentities at War was originally published in German in 2005. It is the result of her dissertation research on the Moluccan conflict and how it took place in cyberspace—the social space constituted by Internet-related practices. The English edition of this volume not only brings one of the few long-term ethnographic accounts of an online conflict to an international audience but also includes a new epilogue that briefly discusses what happened to the actors analyzed in the book and current developments in anthropological Internet research, particularly in respect to social movements and religions. In the early 2000s, a detailed anthropological inquiry into conflicts in relation to Internet technologies was still missing. By providing such an anthropological account and by conducting online ethnographic research, Bräuchler broke new ground and contributed to the then-emerging field of cyberanthropology.

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Review: Europäisch-ethnologisches Forschen. Neue Methoden und Konzepte.

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Budka, P. 2014. Review of Hess, S., Moser, J. & M. Schwertl (eds.). Europäisch-ethnologisches Forschen. Neue Methoden und Konzepte. Berlin: Reimer Verlag, 2013; 332 pp. Anthropos, 109.2014/2: 694-696.

Mit dem Sammelband „Europäisch-ethnologisches Forschen. Neue Methoden und Konzepte.“ ist es den HerausgeberInnen und AutorInnen gelungen eine wichtige, und wie ich finde längst überfällige, Sammlung rezenter Methoden und theoretischer Konzepte nicht nur für die Europäische Ethnologie/Volkskunde zusammenzustellen. Auch wenn der Titel ein Naheverhältnis des Bandes und seiner Inhalte zur Europäischen Ethnologie nahelegt, ist dieses Werk durchaus auch VertreterInnen anderer kultur- und sozialwissenschaftlichen Disziplinen – von Kultur- und/oder Sozialanthropologie bis Soziologie – empfohlen. Insgesamt 17 AutorInnen geben in 12 Beiträgen einen einführenden Überblick zu methodischen und methodologischen Überlegungen sowie Konzepten, die in den letzten Jahren im einschlägigen wissenschaftlichen Fachdiskurs massiv an Bedeutung gewonnen haben: von Ethnographie und Feldtheorien über Akteur-Netzwerk-Theorie bis hin zur Analyse visueller und materieller Kultur. Im Folgenden will ich mich einer subjektiven Auswahl an Buchbeiträgen widmen, um so zu versuchen die Bandbreite dieses Werkes und seiner Inhalte darzulegen.

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