‘Cultural imperialism is dead': Castells

By Dr Andrea Baker

More than 800 scholars from over 95 countries, including Dr Johan Lidberg , Dr Fay Anderson and Dr Andrea Baker from Monash’s Journalism section, are attending the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) conference in the HITEC City of Hyderabad, India.

Dr Johan Lidberg.
Dr Johan Lidberg.

IAMCR is the pre-eminent worldwide professional organisation for journalism, media and communication scholars. Its inception and history as a scientific association is linked the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) post World War II and its first conference was held in 1959.

IAMCR (and US Scholar and Knight Chair in Communication Research at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication)  President, Professor Janet Wasko, describes this year’s program as “an intellectual feast”.

Dr Andrea Baker.
Dr Andrea Baker.

Renowned scholar of urban sociology and the information society Professor Manuel Castells kicked off the conference on Tuesday, July 15, 2014 with a Opening Plenary titled ‘The networked metropolis: global connectivity, regional disconnection’.

“Cultural imperialism is dead. The Nation has split from the State”, resulting in “fragmented and multiple cultural identities”, Prof Castells argued.

The world was “globally connected”, he noted, but it is also “disconnected in terms of local geographies”.

Aligned with the ideology of the left leaning, progressive IAMCR, Prof Castells’ talk focused on economically disadvantaged regions and the networked societies.

Professor Manuel Castells.
Professor Manuel Castells.

Manuel Castells was born in Spain in 1942 and is currently based of the Annenberg Centre at the University of Southern California where he holds the Chair in Sociology, City and Regional Planning.

He is considered a pre-eminent scholar in relation to the information society, communications and globalisation; has penned more than 25 books, edited many more and won numerous awards for his research.

In 2013 Prof Castells was awarded the International Balzan Prize for his outstanding achievements in the fields of humanities and culture.

“The world’s population exceeds 7.4 billon”, Prof Castells said. “But only “three billion have access to the internet”.

On the other hand, about “7 billion have access to mobile communication”, he said.

Prof Castells described how mobile communication was “more important in poor communities of India than food” because of its connection to job security and safety.

Reflecting on a recent United Nations report, Prof Castells highlighted that New Delhi is now the world’s second largest city, after Tokyo.

Today “53 percent of the world lives in urban areas”, Prof Castells noted. By “the end of this century it will rise to 75 per cent”, he said.

“The Nation-State is under stress” (it’s a tug of war) between globalisation and territorial identity.

The territory (or the State) is “rooted in historical context”, Prof Castells said, while the Nation is linked to globalisation and “the emerging communication networks”.

We are living in a “fragmented media world” and “need to speak a common language”, he added.

Prof Castells suggested we look to forms such as art to build a “universal protocol of communication” to “bind the fragmented networked societies”.

Art is directly “linked to the human condition”, he concluded.

Prof Castell’s Opening Plenary at IAMCR is followed by four days of paper presentations, panel discussions, themed plenaries, book launches plus a festival of films from South Asia.

A tribute to renowned Jamaican-born UK scholar Professor Stuart Hall was held on Wednesday, July 16, 2014.

As one of the iconic cultural theorists and Marxist scholars, 82-year-old Prof Hall passed away on February 10, 2014. He was one of the original figures in British Cultural Studies and founder of the influential journal, New Left Review.

This year’s IAMCR conference is jointly hosted by the Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad, and the School of Communication, English & Foreign Languages University. The conference is held annually in different countries and has returned to India after a gap of 28 years.

HITEC City, where the conference is held, stands for Hyderabad Information Technology and Engineering Consultancy city.

The cyber city was established in 1998 with extensive technological infrastructure, which encouraged multinational companies such as Google, Microsoft (operating its largest branch outside the US), IBM, Yahoo!, Dell and Facebook to have offices there.

The broad theme for this year’s IAMCR conference is “Region as Frame: Politics, Presence, Practice”, as the program states:

“The breaking down of some the world’s walls have created an uncertainty about the geographies and substantive nature of the regions they had once defined.

“This includes physical boundaries such as the Berlin wall, ideological ones such as those in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, economic ones such as those that had once separated India and other socialist economies from the capitalist West, and cultural ones such as those that had hidden the lives of people in the Middle Eastern and Soviet bloc”.

The IAMCR conference concludes on Saturday, July 19, 2014.

More information, visit the conference website here.