Imagining the Global: Transnational Media and Popular Culture Beyond East and West
reviewed by Patrick A. Ryan - September 08, 2015
Title: Imagining the Global: Transnational Media and Popular Culture Beyond East and West
Author(s): Fabienne Darling-Wolf
Publisher: University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor
ISBN: 0472052438, Pages: 200, Year: 2014
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In Imagining the Global: Transnational Media and Popular Culture Beyond East and West, Fabienne Darling-Wolf effectively explores how individuals perceive the global. Through a translocal model, critical theory and qualitative case studies for empirical support, she demonstrates the need for new theoretical models and scholarship to understand audience negotiations of media representations. Although she does not delineate her data analysis procedures, Darling-Wolffs integrated, well-organized approach across genres illuminates the role and reaction of audiences that are sometimes inadequately assessed in media studies.
Audiences often have diverse interpretations of the same image and their constructions of narratives to derive meaning (of and through the media) are inevitably open to revision based upon new perspectives, including awareness of whose voices are privileged or marginalized (Appleby et al., 1994; Norman, 1991; Stone, 1981). Darling-Wolf is sensitive to the nuances involved in making scholarly determinations concerning audience reception. As she utilizes critical theory to evaluate the impacts of the intersections of race, gender, nationality, and culture, Darling-Wolf could further situate the media in historical contexts to bridge past and present understandings of media as artifacts, particularly when individuals may have layered encounters and changing reactions to the same texts over time.
As Lee, Rosenfeld, Mendenhall, Rivers, and Tynes (2004) note, in referencing Berman and Slobin (1994), Most national and/or ethnic cultures carry forward from generation to generation archetypal themes and plots that are interrogated and reworked with each new generation (p. 39). Mass media-produced narratives, once internalized by audiences, are also catalysts for the future by providing a set of rules or specifications for action (Bruner, 1986, p. 123). Techniques of narrative analysis could further elucidate the implications of responses to media including the development of counter-narratives.
In engaging, accessible prose, Darling-Wolf complicates pre-conceived notions about definitions of East versus West, Whiteness, globalization(s), and multiple modernities (2015, p. 10) by examining the production, distribution and consumption of media in France, Japan, and the United States. Through Frances reality television program Star Academy, Darling-Wolf discusses negotiations of race, gender, and geographical background in the crafting of an idealized image of national culture in relation to other francophone countries. Although television audiences often participate in voting, it can still be difficult to assess how viewers interact with media constructions. Using accounts from The New York Times, Le Monde and Yomiuri Shimbun, Darling-Wolf explores how journalists in the U.S., France and Japan profiled at-home responses to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, French 2005 racial conflicts, and the 2011 earthquake/tsunami affecting the Fukushima nuclear plant more favorably, while criticizing systemic and structural failures abroad (p. 44).
Further analysis explaining the power implications of national rivalries amid global competition is warranted. Outlining the descriptive and prescriptive notions concerning gender roles, beauty, racial, and cultural identities depicted in mens and womens fashion magazines in Japan, Darling-Wolf additionally explicates the blurring of categories in sense-making. She observes how the cross-cultural worldwide production and distribution of hip-hop music and anime cartoons give way to new paradigms emerging beyond previous understandings of imperialism, cultural hegemony, resistance, and post-colonialism.
By utilizing translocal/transnational lenses, Darling-Wolf problematizes assumptions. For example, she demonstrates the heterogeneity of international perspectives reflected and shaped by popular media, providing a useful framework for additional analysis of the role of media in defining globalization. As a result, Imagining the Global is significant scholarship that helps us question the formation of our beliefs as well as value diverse perspectives and participate in a more enlightened manner in our shared global community.
Appleby, J., Hunt, L, & Jacob, M. (1994). Telling the truth about history. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.
Bruner, J. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Lee, C. D., Rosenfeld, E., Mendenhall, R., Rivers, A., & Tynes, B. (2004). Cultural modeling as a frame for narrative analysis. In C. Daiute & C. Lightfoot (Eds.), Narrative analysis: Studying the development of individuals in society (pp. 39-62). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Norman, A. P. (1991). Telling it like it was: Historical narratives on their own terms. History and Theory, 30(2), 119-135.
Stone, L. (1981). The past and the present. Boston, MA: Routledge & Kegan Paul.