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Theorising media as/and civil society in Africa

Willems, Wendy (2013) Theorising media as/and civil society in Africa. In: Obadare, Ebenezer, (ed.) The Handbook of Civil Society in Africa. Nonprofit and civil society studies (20). Springer, New York, USA, pp. 43-59. ISBN 9781461482611

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Existing research on media and civil society in Africa has often adopted a rather restrictive understanding of media (defined as formal, professionalized forms of mass media) and civil society (equated with non-governmental organizations). Furthermore, studies have largely understood media as one component of a larger civil society comprising of a range of actors including the church and non-governmental organizations. This chapter examines alternative routes of theorizing how different forms of old and new, formal and popular, mainstream and alternative, privately-owned and state-owned media have promoted and/or constrained the growth of a variety of forms of civil society and activism in Africa. Drawing on critical debates in the field of ‘alternative media studies’ and reflections on the usefulness of the concept of civil society in African Studies, this chapter argues that there is room for more in-depth interrogation of the symbiotic relation between media and civil society on the continent. Furthermore, by defining media in a broader sense, we are able to shed light on the range of genres and media forms that have helped to mediate the concerns of African civil society, including popular music, humor and guerilla journalism. Lastly, adopting a historical and less prescriptive definition of civil society helps to gain insight into the broader spectrum of civic agency on the continent, and the role played by both old and new media in either constraining or promoting these expressions in both colonial and post-colonial Africa.

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL: htt://
Additional Information: © 2013 Springer Science+ Business Media
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Date Deposited: 24 Jul 2013 15:26
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2014 08:38

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