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Foreign News gives us a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look into the practices of the global tribe we call foreign correspondents. Exploring how they work, Ulf Hannerz also compares the ways correspondents and anthropologists report from one part of the world to another.
Hannerz draws on extensive interviews with correspondents in cities as diverse as Jerusalem, Tokyo, and Johannesburg. He shows not only how different story lines evolve in different correspondent beats, but also how the correspondents' home country and personal interests influence the stories they write. Reporting can go well beyond coverage of a specific event, using the news instead to reveal deeper insights into a country or a people to link them to long-term trends or structures of global significance. Ultimately, Hannerz argues that both anthropologists and foreign correspondents can learn from each other in their efforts to educate a public about events and peoples far beyond our homelands.
The result of nearly a decade's worth of work, Foreign News is a provocative study that will appeal to both general readers and those concerned with globalization.
— Mark Pedelty
— Rob Johnston
In 1871 Lewis Henry Morgan, the pioneer anthropologist whose memory the Morgan Lectures honor, traveled to Europe. He took copious notes and hoped to publish some of his observations, but as one of his biographers put it, he observed Europe "with that dry literalness and grave earnestness that served him well when studying the habits of beavers or the material culture of the Iroquois" (Stern 1931, 47). Disappointed, his editor friend at home suggested to him that instead, if "you ... just use your Yankee eyes to see and describe things as they are in Europe, or as they seem to you, you might do something worth having." That argument, about bringing a perspective from one place and applying it to another place, then reporting back to where it came from, is central to this book.
Before that, having dabbled in local Republican politics in Rochester, New York, Morgan had hoped to be appointed to a foreign service position. Another biographer notes that he would really have liked to be sent to Russia, where he would have pursued his research on forms of human kinship, but since he "realized that he lacked sufficient political stature to win the position," he requested a position in Sweden instead. Having failed to get that, he tried in turn for Peru, China, and Italy but was awarded none of them (Resek 1960, 119).
In the long run, however, we may see that a Chinese connection of sorts was established for Morgan, or perhaps Morgan's ghost. Early Communists discovered this Republican and brought his ideas into their view of human history. And so in the early 1990s, when a young Chinese-American anthropologist, Mayfair Yang (1996), set out to do fieldwork in the People's Republic of China, she found that her official hosts had firm opinions about what she could and could not study-and these opinions were guided by the concepts of human evolution developed by Lewis Henry Morgan. Lineages and ancestor rituals were defined as "backward," feudal or even more ancient, and consequently not good topics for a study of contemporary China. And so Yang concluded that moving from nineteenth-century Rochester to twentieth-century Beijing, some of Morgan's work had become a prominent example of what Edward Said (1983) has termed "traveling theory"-with Friedrich Engels, one may want to add, as travel agent.
Through his more renowned scholarship as well as his failed travel journalism, Morgan exemplifies the kind of matters I engage with in the following pages: the passage of perspectives, but also the representation of distant events, people, and places (a matter with which many anthropologists have been preoccupied in recent times, under Edward Said's influence among others) and the development of a sense of humanity and the world as a whole. To reiterate, this book is primarily about news production rather than news consumption. Even so, it seems hardly possible to develop a perspective on news work in the world without any underlying idea of what the work is for and who it is for. So in this chapter I want to spell out some assumptions about the place of foreign news in our lives and about contemporary stances vis-à-vis the world, as well as about the nature of news and the qualities of news media.
The term "globalization" may too often have been hijacked to refer only to the expanding reach of market actors, mechanisms, and processes, yet we may insist on using it to denote a more general, internally varied, growing interconnectedness and a corresponding form of consciousness. With globalization, argues the sociologist Roland Robertson (1992, 6), one of the pioneers in this field of study, the world is turning into "a single place." In some quarters at least, there is a growing sense that what is needed is more of a global citizenship that involves people as active, responsible, informed participants in a public life that in one way or another transcends national boundaries and is concerned with the welfare of humanity. (Perhaps if Lewis Henry Morgan, also a scholar-activist-on behalf of the Iroquois Indians-and a public intellectual in his time, were with us now, this would also be his vision; he closed chapter 13 of Ancient Society, his most famous work, by professing to be "profoundly impressed with the dignity and grandeur of those great conceptions which recognize the liberty, equality and fraternity of mankind.") For such a citizenship to be possible, there would have to be structures of civic life through which active and effective participation could be channeled and through which actors on the global arena could be held accountable. What I am ultimately concerned with at this level, however, is the complex shaping of civic impulses in a more interconnected world, that entity I have taken to describing as the global ecumene. What is the part of the long-distance news flow in orienting us toward-or away from-that world?
Before getting to such matters in more general terms, we will have a first brief encounter with three correspondents and three of the specific scenes from which they have reported.
Jerusalem, Accra, Beijing
The first of these three stories is from Marjorie Miller, who was Los Angeles Times correspondent in Jerusalem when I met her. For Jerusalem correspondents, the continuous main story over the years has certainly been the troubled relationships between Israelis and their Arab neighbors, including those closest at hand, the Palestinians. But in recent years, growing attention to another divide within Israeli Jewish society has contributed to a more complex picture. The split between largely secular Israelis and the ultra-Orthodox, the haredim, has serious political consequences, resulting in the hard news stories of election campaigns and parliamentary confrontations. But it is also played out in Israeli everyday life and is evident in the streets of Jerusalem, where the ultra-Orthodox are a quickly growing proportion of the city's population.
And so for one report on this social cleavage, under the headline "'Sabbath War' Flares in the Holy City," in one of those celebrated "Column One" pieces that characteristically begin in the upper left corner of the Los Angeles Times front page and then meander through several pages of the paper, Marjorie Miller (1996e), presents a Saturday afternoon scene in Jerusalem's Bar Ilan Street, where a caravan of cars move along slowly, slowly, bearing signs with the greeting "Shabat shalom" (Good Sabbath). The response of the people lining the street consists of hurled stones and epithets-"Dogs!" "Garbage!" "You are not Jewish!" Police on horseback move between the cars and the demonstrators.
Bar Ilan Street is a main Jerusalem thoroughfare. The secular city dwellers want to see it primarily as that; they feel strongly that it should be open for car traffic during the Sabbath as at any other time. But it runs through neighborhoods largely inhabited by the ultra-Orthodox, who insist that cars should stand still between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday. And thus, Miller reports, there is this "now-weekly ritual of animosity." She hears a yeshiva student dressed in the black hat and frock coat of the ultra-Orthodox turn angrily to a secular Israeli in the crowd of onlookers and demand, "If the community asks for its street to be closed one day on Shabbat, why not?" And the other young man, in Bermuda shorts, sandals, and sunglasses, virtually a secular uniform on a warm Jerusalem day, replies disdainfully, "Because those of us who are not religious should not have to live according to the will of the religious ... You give these religious people a finger today and they want the head tomorrow."
So of course, this is not just a matter of rights over those twenty-four hours of traffic, once a week, on a particular street. A Jerusalem city councilman, representing a party of the secular left, points out to Miller that the fight is not only for Bar Ilan Street: "Jerusalem is our face to the world. The question is whether it will be the face of Los Angeles, Paris, London and other Western cities, or whether it will be Tehran. The religious want to take steps toward Tehran and further from the world I want to belong to."
In the second correspondent report there is also a kind of long-distance imagination and identification. The title of the piece is "Ulster-by-the-Equator," and the author is Chris McGreal (1999e), Africa correspondent of the British newspaper the Guardian. At the time of the report, McGreal is based in Johannesburg, but he has been spending much of his time traveling widely in sub-Saharan Africa. This time, he reports from Accra, in Ghana. There is a lodge of the Orange Order there, which has been in existence since the end of World War I. The members march through the streets of Accra on July 12, in memory of the Battle of the Boyne, and commemorate King William's landing at Brixham on November 5. For their parades they wear dark suits, orange sashes, medals, and bowler hats if they can afford them. But the members of the lodge in Accra are not Northern Irish Protestants; they are Ghanaians. The grand master, a retired building contractor, goes to Belfast for the July marches when he has a chance, and when McGreal meets him, he is planning his trip to the next conference of the Imperial Order, in Liverpool. McGreal is shown a picture of the swearing-in of the Accra grand master, at a table adorned with the Orange exhortation: "Truth, Unity and Concord. No Surrender." Although the lodge in Accra stands with the Orangemen in Northern Ireland in their religious beliefs, however, the grand master says, "[W]e have no problem with Catholics."
Rather than actually engaging very actively with the affairs of Northern Ireland, it appears, the Orangemen of Accra are part of an active local ritual and associational life in which the membership of their lodge may overlap with those of Rotarians, Freemasons, Odd Fellows, and others. All of them, it turns out, entered a difficult period when the young flight lieutenant Jerry Rawlings seized power in Ghana and started persecuting organizations of this kind. Their temples were destroyed, parades were banned, and membership was proscribed for civil servants. Then a bit later the Orange Lodge had to suffer the criticisms of the visiting grand chaplain of the Scottish lodge, who was very suspicious of the mingling of the Accra Orangemen with people of all those other associations, who could be of any religious persuasion or none at all.
When the grand master of the Accra lodge went to the Liverpool conference, he would join those others who campaigned for a name change from "the Imperial Order" to "the International Order"-"imperial" has unfortunate connotations in Africa. Yet the imperial connection still has some advantages. The Scottish lodge had contributed funds for a new temple, and when McGreal came to visit, the grand master hoped that Queen Elizabeth, on her impending journey to Ghana, would take up his invitation to visit the lodge. It would be very good for its membership drive.
Saturday night in Beijing: my third correspondent story is by a veteran China watcher, Göran Leijonhufvud (1998), writing in the Stockholm morning newspaper Dagens Nyheter. (I had missed seeing him when I was in Hong Kong, where he is based, but then because it turned out that Leijonhufvud was on vacation close to where I have my summer house in southern Sweden, I had the chance to spend a quiet afternoon with him at the edge of the forest, talking about his experiences in reporting from China over a quarter century.)
Leijonhufvud begins this Saturday evening in a bowling hall with a few young bachelors who express a preference for this pastime over discos and karaoke bars. The patronage of the bowling alleys is mixed: some middle-aged people, entire families as well. The foreign correspondent runs into an American who sells bowling alleys as entire packages and who claims that there is a bowling index of national development-as countries reach a certain level of prosperity, their people begin to go bowling. Yet Beijing people do other things as well on a Saturday night now, things unheard of twenty years ago. On the extremely crowded dance floor of a megadisco, the dancers jump up and down, up and down; and the visual memory of the Swedish journalist takes him back to Tiananmen Square in the 1960s, where the Red Guardsmen jumped up and down with Chairman Mao's Little Red Book in their hands.
In the Beijing of the late 1990s, however, Saturday night is only a part of another new concept-zhoumo (the weekend). People go shopping or get out of town to breathe less polluted air wherever they may find it. Or they are busy with practical matters at home. Now that they are able to buy their apartments, laying new floors, painting walls, and looking for new furniture have also become major weekend preoccupations for Chinese city people.
Three correspondents, from three countries, reporting between continents. What understandings of the world do we draw from them? How do they place Jerusalem, Los Angeles, Accra, London, Beijing, and Stockholm vis-à-vis one another in the global ecumene? We will come back to these stories and these questions after taking up certain overall issues.
Cosmopolitanism, Thick or Thin
Just after the end of World War II, one of the pioneers in the sociology of knowledge distribution, Alfred Schutz, wrote an essay on "the informed citizen" that more than a half century later may still strike us as remarkably up to date, even though technologies and their associated speeds have changed:
We are, so to speak, potentially subject to everybody's remote control. No spot of this globe is more distant from the place where we live than sixty airplane hours; electric waves carry messages in a fraction of a second from one end of the earth to another; and very soon every place in this world will be the potential target of destructive weapons released at any other place. Our own social surrounding is within the reach of everyone, everywhere; an anonymous Other, whose goals are unknown to us because of his anonymity, may bring us together with our system of interests and relevances within his control. (Schutz 1964, 129)
Already there was a sense of what it meant to be an informed citizen of the world as a single place. Schutz contrasted this social type to the "man in the street," to whom what was relevant was what he needed to know for his everyday life in his immediate environment, and also to the "expert," whose system of relevances was defined quite precisely by the established problems within his field. The informed citizen was inclined to restrict the zone of the presumably irrelevant, for he sensed that he could not know when the information someone else might place there would be made relevant to him by that possibly anonymous Other.
"Informed citizens," we may think, along such lines, are those who place a value on a sort of habitual, well-rounded but not very specialized scanning of ongoing events, not only those most near at hand, and have some conception of how matters fit together. This would seem to be a desirable quality of a citizen of the world. Yet citizenship may involve not only information, but also sentiments and commitments.
I believe the notion of cosmopolitanism is one we can use here. At least partially in reaction to the narrowly economic conception of globalization, it has gained a renewed significance as a keyword in arguments over increased transnational interconnectedness. In one central sense, there is a politics of cosmopolitanism, which by now we may understand to involve a sense of responsibility beyond the nation-state. It may entail support for political activities transcending national boundaries, as well as the growth of transnational and supranational institutions and organizations of a political and legal nature. Even if it is not exactly preoccupied with the construction of a cosmopolis, a world society, as some sort of politically integrated entity, the present revival of a politics of cosmopolitanism involves a response to globalization that emphasizes that human beings are not only to be seen as a labor force or as consumers. The cosmopolitan impulse tends to favor more inclusive arrangements of compassion, human rights, solidarity, and peacefulness.
Excerpted from FOREIGN NEWS by Ulf Hannerz Copyright © 2004 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission.
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|Introduction: Conversations with Correspondents||1|
|1||Media and the World as a Single Place||15|
|2||The Landscape of News||39|
|4||Regions and Stories||102|
|5||Routines, Relationships, Responses||147|