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Welcome to the module on the politics of representation. This module introduces you to the wide range of issues involved in media representations of social and cultural ‘difference’, and the ‘us’/’them’ divisions they entail. The module is concerned broadly with cultural stereotypes and the construction of stereotypical Others.

We shall begin with the concept of representation and the ways in which cultural representations are implicated in structures of inequality, power and control as well as in different perspectives, outlooks and conceptions. We shall then move on to the concept of the stereotype. This is in some ways quite a muddled concept, and it pays to look at the way it has been developed and used. We shall concentrate on the two main areas in which it has had a high level of currency – social psychology and media studies – with a view to distinguishing between its different application in these two areas. Both these applications derive in the first place from the concept’s initial formulation by the American political writer and commentator, Walter Lippmann, in the early 1920s. As well as tracing the career of the concept of the stereotype, we shall align it with the related concept of the Other. This has a longer history, having in some ways been initially mapped out by Hegel in an influential treatment of the questions of recognition, subjugation and domination, but it is only fairly recently that it has become a key critical concept in the social sciences. This is partly because of the interest of second wave feminism in the concept, with various contradictory stereotypes following from the basic conception of ‘woman’ as the lesser Other of ‘man’. Colonial stereotypes are one example of the conflation or intermingling of gendered and racialised constructs of the Other.

One of the distinguishing features of the module is its historical dimension. Most of the analytical treatments of stereotyping in both social psychology and media studies concentrate on stereotypes and stereotyping processes in the immediate present. They have little or no conception of how stereotypes have developed historically and been adapted to changing historical circumstances. It is as though racial or national stereotypes have arisen like ideological jack-in-the-boxes out of a historical vacuum. The module seeks to overcome this limitation by dealing with the longevity of certain stereotypes, and situating them in relation to the historical development of nationalism, imperialism and racism. Ideas about empire, ‘race’, and national character and identity, found their most influential expressions in popular culture, and we shall look at various examples of such representations around the middle section of the module. These include the stereotypical associations arising from, and apparently confirmed by, the cartographical arrangements of geographical space, with their division of the world into different sectors and scalings of civilisation, global importance, cultural valuation and political danger. We shall examine in particular the ‘us’/’them’ distinctions and alterities associated with nationalism, racism and imperialism, Orientalism and Occidentalism, migration and transnational population flows.(责任编辑:admin)

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