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COM428 Presentation

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The use of such terms as “tribe, tribal and tribalism” in global media serves only to denigrate the continent of Africa and all Africans, regardless of where they live.

The use of such terms as “tribe, tribal and tribalism” in global media serves only to denigrate the continent of Africa and all Africans, regardless of where they live.


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  • 1. The use of such terms as “tribe, tribal and tribalism” in global media serves only to denigrate the continent of Africa and all Africans, regardless of where they live.
  • 2. Durban
  • 3. Cape Town
  • 4. FIFA WORLD CUP
  • 5. Tribalism is a Social Contruct  Tribes, tribalism, savages – these are but a few of the Western stereotypical images of Africans and Africa.  Such images appear widely in the Western world’s output of film and print media. Historically, through films and books, evidence of bigotry toward Africans existed long before slaves came to the “New World”.  Imperialists wish to impose their culture and denigrate rural African culture in the process
  • 6. Early Film Perpetuated Tribal Labels  Among the first movements in film was the travelogue, or safari film, of the 1920s.  In these films, the filmmakers portrayed people of indigenous cultures as more primitive, bringing a taste of the exotic to Western audiences.  Portraying indigenous cultures in this way also had the effect of validating the belief system of Western viewers, which unfortunately did not consider Africans as peers, but rather primitive and uncivilized.
  • 7. Frederick Jackson Turner  During Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency (1901- 1909), the “back to nature” movement was in full swing.  Frederick Jackson Turner, a historian during this era, published a paper on the importance of the American frontier in shaping the character of the nation.  His frontier thesis put forth the notion that in order to progress, a man must first regress.
  • 8. King Kong  Is King Kong simply an action film, or does the film carry racist undertones?  The film is replete with blatant metaphors of the jungle savages of Africa.  Even when Kong becomes a sympathetic figure, he is still an ape, in love with a White woman.  As disheartening as it may be, viewers at the time likely considered Kong to be representative of a crazed Black man.
  • 9. Media Perpetuation  The writing and reporting during the Kenya conflict consistently used the words “tribes” and “tribal” with no thought of the images that were being generated of Africa and Africans.  The crisis captured the attention of the Western media and population alike.  The Western media has a responsibility to cover these conflict without perpetuating social constructs that depict Africans as patriarchal nepotistic people.
  • 10. Why Tribal Stereotypes are Damaging  Tribalism is associated with savagery.  This practice of labeling other cultures as tribal is an elitist, vague and misrepresentative depiction.  The Maasia of Kenya live in rural villages.  The Maasia take great pride in their way of life.  To label them a tribe is shortsighted and disrespectful, because Westerners define groups like the Maasai.
  • 11. Tribal Labels Place No Emphasis on the Individual  The diversity that exists within a group like the Maasai, while not a priority to them, is something that Westerners are obligated to take into consideration.  Living a communal life means so much more to the Maasai than the it does to outside observers and could never be summed up by one word.  Individuality in Africa is not appreciated by Western Media. How many African individuals can you name? Nelson Mandela… and, um…
  • 12. Western Policy Regarding African Conflicts is One Dimensional in Aproach  Whether dealing with Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan or any other African nation that experiences a conflict with ethnic dimensions, the U.S. should ground its policies in an implied understanding of the particular context of each situation rather than allowing the misleading and simplistic “tribal conflict” interpretation that so often enables policymakers to abdicate responsibility.
  • 13. African Self Image  Many Africans will refer to themselves as “tribes people” when asked to speak about themselves in English.  The language probably does little to change African self-image; every person, regardless of origin, has a sense of their own individuality.  Westerners are incapable of defining non-Western life. Western sensibilities are not “correct”, per se. The reason we label others is that it gives us the opportunity to rank and categorize them.
  • 14. Scholarly Attitudes Regarding the Stereotyping of Cultures  Today top scholars who study African society from within, and from afar--agree that the idea of tribe promotes misleading stereotypes.  What a tribe is can not be clearly defined.  It carries misleading historical and cultural assumptions.  It blocks an accurate view of African reality.
  • 15. African Aid is Misappropriated Due to Stereotyping  At best, any interpretation of African events that relies on the idea of “tribe” contributes no understanding of specific issues in specific countries.  At worst, it perpetuates the idea that African identities and conflicts are in some way more "primitive" than those in other parts of the world.  Such misunderstanding lead to inappropriate, blanket solutions to complex problems.
  • 16. Label Africans as We Label Westerners  People  Kenyan Nationals  Villagers  City Dwellers  Traditionalists  Non-Traditionalists  Individuals
  • 17. Consequences and Conclusions  Whatever the term one uses, it is essential to understand that identities in Africa are as diverse, ambiguous, complex, and modern.  Africa is the fastest developing continent in the world.  Without a deeper understanding of the African world view, the rest of the world will struggle to assist Africans to regain what the world has pillaged
  • 18. Zulus, Hutus, Tutsi, Maasai  Life as a Zulu and life as a Tutsi are completely different existences.  Maasia and Hutu have little more in common than the color of their skin.  The diversity that exists, even within these cultural groups, and the distinctions that make them each unique, are not often celebrated by Western media.
  • 19. Final Thoughts  Western media has a responsibility to its audience.  When a blanket term, such as “tribal” is used to define groups who are so obviously diverse, it creates apathy among Westerners toward specific and important issues.  Africa needs our help. In order to ensure that the effect of Western aid is maximized, each situation should be addressed specifically.
  • 20. Continued  Terminology, for the innocent, can confuse and muddle our understanding.  In some cases, terminology is used as a mechanism to promote our elitist self-image by degrading others.  Africans should consider no longer using words like “tribal”. The image that Westerners have of Africa is crucial to the continents revival.