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Global Media Ethics
The Relationship between Technology and Religion in the process of Cultural Interaction: Modern Turkey as an example
As one can easily guess from the title of my presentation, I will first dwell upon the relation between technology and the religious life. The true nature of this relationship is a difficult and broad issue, which needs a profound philosophical and theological analyses. However, I am not going to discuss this subject as a mere philosophical or theological problem. I will rather restrict my presentation to the assessment of certain discussions, which took place in the early years of Turkish Republic.
The discussions held on the relation between religion and technology, which took place during the first years of the Turkish Republic, were focused mainly on the possible impacts of the technology, which was developed in the West, on the cultural values. In recent years, (since 1980s onwards) a new dimension has been added to these discussions; the inquiries over the consequences of globalisation, which emerged together with technological developments, on religious life have also begun. And during this period, the attitude to be taken towards different religions and their truth-claims has been the subject of a philosophical and theological debate.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TECHNOLOGY AND RELIGION
It is well-known that technological developments bring about considerable changes in the human behaviors and ideas. In fact, a technological change as such means a change in the human attitudes and behaviors. The changes observed in the fields of transportation and telecommunication have visible effects on the social and cultural life. Along with technological developments, people change their perspectives on how to perform a task and thus they begin to adjust themselves to the new practices.
Of course, this does not mean that we can readily accept a set of values peculiar to technology. It is one thing to say ‘technology can lead to drastic changes in social and cultural life’ and still another thing to say ‘technology creates its own system of values’. The seemingly indispensable values of modern technology are indeed the values created by a broader social milieu including technology itself. Probably, the most important issue which needs to be discussed here is whether technology can create values or not. Therefore, the basic question which calls for an answer in this context is: “Is it possible to adapt a technology without undergoing any religious and ethical change?”
In other words, in bringing about significant changes in both the social fabric of a society and its system of values, does technology serve an impartial/ neutral task or does it present certain values? We have to elaborate on this question carefully. “Because, whether we will be able to avoid the unwanted consequences of technology will be made quite clear to a great extent, according to the answer given to this question.” (Gungor, 35)
According to the ones regarding technology as a neutral device, we should be in quest for the ways of putting the opportunities into practice, which are presented by technology in proper ways. As for the proponents of this idea, what leads to the deaths of humans is not the bombs but the other humans producing them. If it is possible to make use of technology both in helpful and harmful ways, then technology alone is neither beneficial nor hazardous.
This idea is not essentially wrong. Actually, technology alone cannot be considered to serve as a ‘value-creator’ or ‘value-destructor’. If it were really considered in this way, we would not really be thinking of getting rid of the harmful effects of technology, instead, we would have to reject technology to free ourselves of these effects. But if we take the definition of modern technology, ‘practical application of scientific knowledge’, it will be seen that in the background of technology is a sort of value system which comes along with modern science.
It is a fact that the industrialised societies have begun to resemble one another in time. Owing to this resemblance, however, it is discussed that culture will develop in such a way as to create a unity in fundamental values, just as religion.
Briefly speaking, it is possible to consider various views on the opinions about the relation between technological and cultural values in two basic groups: The First group claims that national cultures will not eventually perish as a result of technological developments, while the Second group, is simply against technology as they believe that technological developments will inevitably lead to such a consequence. In their view, technology is harmful in essence.
During the early years of Turkish Republic, the relation of technology to cultural values led to some serious arguments. This argument has survived up till now in different levels. (The thinkers, such as Ziya Gokalp, Mumtaz Turhan, Erol Gungor, Ismet Ozel and Nermi Uygur have all contributed to this argument from different points of view.) Ziya Gokalp (1876-1924), who approaches from a sociological point of view, strove hard to present a fundamental solution to the problem by differentiating the concepts, ‘culture and civilisation’. One of his contemporaries, Hamdi Yazir (1878-1942) dealt with the issue within the framework of the concepts, teceddud (renovation), tebeddul (alienation) and tahrif (corruption).
Basically, what led Ziya Gokalp to employ a division between culture and civilisation was his profound concern for Turkey: “Are we expected to adopt social and cultural features of them while we are imitating the civilised conducts and technological developments of the western world, towards which we headed the overall struggle of the intellectuals and the state’s power. In other words, are we expected to leave our old customs, traditions and beliefs behind along with our outdated technologies? Are we expected to pretend to be a European from our attire to our religion?” (Gungor, 10)
This was the great problem that the Turkish intellectuals faced in Gokalp’s time. While people wanted to have all the technological instruments of the western world how come, on the other hand, would they be able to refrain from the same western world’s earthly pleasures, family life, all sort of social interactions, philosophical and religious ideas, its art and life style? This profound concern led many intellectual elites to be apprehensive and critical about the west. Facing this, some of the intellectual elite claimed that we had to make do with only the technological advancement experienced in the west, while relatively small number of other intellectuals maintained that they, as a nation, would have to change many cultural traditions, as well.
Gokalp, with practical concerns, collected all the values which, he thinks, should remain unchanged, under the umbrella term of ‘culture’, while he categorises the ones which can be replaced under the title of ‘civilisation’. The values in the first group are those directly belonging to a nation itself; thus, they could be developed, but not altered whatsoever. The second type of values, which are considered under the sub-heading of the ‘values of the civilisation’ are the ones to be changed as long as they do not lead to the blossoming of culture. With his own words; “civilisation is the total sum of the concepts and techniques which get passed on from one nation to the other which have been conducted through methods and imitation. Yet, culture is the sentiments, which can neither be achieved via methods nor can they be adopted from other nations through imitation.” (Gokalp, 38)
Gokalp states that science, technology, political, social and administrative organisations should be appreciated through civilisation. According to him, culture basically, involves art, language and literature. Nevertheless he has a broader sense of culture to the extent that he sometimes confuses his ideas about civilisation with those of culture.
As it is put forward by Erol Gungor, Gokalp’s formulation not only has mistakes in terms of misinformation but also involves certain contradictions caused by his attempt to find solutions to the daily needs. For instance, religion in one place, is considered as a part of civilisation while, in another place, it is mentioned as a part of culture. For Gokalp, religion should be considered under the category of civilisation as it is not a product of the Turks, even though it has become a part of the Turkish culture. (Gungor, 12-13)
For Gokalp therefore, culture is the most fundamental identity of a nation, which moulds its art, folklore, traditions, customs, and behavioural patterns, and moreover, shapes its sentiments. His dilemma of culture and civilisation, which he adopts and develops from E. Durkheim’s sociology, marks the cultural history of Turkish Republic. “However, surprisingly enough, ‘Ottoman civilisation’ has been regarded as an indispensable part and continuation of national culture in Turkey in the last fifty years.” (Inalcik, 104)
The fact that certain technological changes have led to some direct concurrent changes in religious values has raised the question as to how the religion should take attitude towards these changes. Actually, this question constitutes a subsection of a profound theological discussion pertaining to an attitude which religion should take in the face of social changes. This discussion has a long historical background in Islamic thought. There have always been different ways of understanding in the tradition of Islamic thought; while some have called all the innovations - taking place - in religious life as ‘bid’at’ (that is, innovations against the essentials of the religion) and refused them thoroughly, some others have preferred to divide the innovations into two types: The ones accepted by religion, called ‘bid’at- i hasene’ and those refused by religion, called ‘bid’at-i seyyie’. (For further information on ‘bid’at’, might be look at Turkiye Diyanet Vakfi Islam Ansiklopedisi (Islam Encyclopaedia), v.VI, Istanbul 1992, pp 129-31.)
Hamdi Yazir, a contemporary of Gokalp and the author of many valuable works in the field of Islamic studies elaborated on the qualities of the innovations which could be accepted by religion. In a sense, he also disputes the theological values of the innovations in the field of technology. He expresses the innovations, which could be accepted by religion by the term of ‘teceddud’ (renovation). According to Yazir, renovation has two basic properties: First, renovations should not be against the principle of tawhid (the Oneness of God); second, it should not be contrary to basic values essential to the identity of an Islamic society. The renovations lacking these two properties are called alienation (tebeddul) and corruption (tahrif) and therefore should be rejected by religion.
“Since the greatest pillar of Islam is regarded as vahdet (unity and uniqueness of God), all the other principles are quite substantial in terms of the development of this principle. The identity of the ummah, (the whole community of Islam), will be preserved and brought in line with the wholeness of renovation. In this way, the intellectual and material events which have occurred in different centuries will be studied from different points of views based on various experiences, and the implementations of these principles will be examined. The principles, which have been stated either in the verses of Koran or in the traditions of prophet Mohammed, will be preserved and the bid’ats (innovations against the essentials of the religion), will not lead to the corruption of the identity of the community of Islam.” (Yazir, 62-3)
The discussion about the relationship between technology and values, which was initiated in the early years of the new Turkish Republic, was considered to be anachronistic and unjustified by some. It is possible to say, in this context, that the ones who claim that ‘we must internalise the western values as a whole’ or ‘we will only take the science and techniques of the west and leave its cultural values and traditions as they are’ used to debate over a problem which, indeed, never existed. Because, these people mistakenly used to assume that it was quite easy to realise technological advancement and discussed whether this would be enough or not. Actually, the real problem of Turkey has been how to transfer the modern technology quickly instead of wasting time on the consequences, the reasons of which do not exist. “Because, none of our social and cultural difficulties have come out as a result of the introduction of modern technology. On the contrary, many things have crumbled away from national culture though the modern technology has not been introduced at all.” (Gungor, 46)
RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY AND ISLAM
Another discussion, which can be dealt with in the context of the relationship between technology and religion, is Islam’s approach towards religious diversity. The phenomenon of ‘globalisation’, which has emerged as a part of the development that has taken place in the fields of transportation and communication technologies has, in a sense, made the Turkish society an ‘open society’. People have begun to feel as if they were living together with the adherents of the other religions (in ‘a virtual world’ rather than in ‘the real world’). TV channels and internet facilities have played a considerable role in this. In the academic environments, this has led to discussions concerning the proper religious attitude towards the truth-claims of other religions. (One of the latest studies conducted in this field is Islam ve Oteki: Dinlerin Dogruluk, Kurtaricilik ve Bir Arada Yasama Sorunu (Islam and Otherness: The Truth, Salvation and Co-existence Problems of Religions), edited by Cafer Sadik Yaran, Istanbul 2001, 350 p.)
I would like to evaluate this discussion within the outline of a debate which took place in 1989 between two professors of theology in Turkey.
Suleyman Ates in his article entitled ‘No Monopoly on Heaven’ (Ates, 7-24) advocates an inclusivist understanding of religion in Islam. According to Ates, Islam is not the name of the particular religion which was revealed only to a certain prophet, but it is a common name given to every revelation sent by Allah to all the prophets from Adam to Mohammad. Therefore, anyone who believes in the Oneness of God without attributing a partner to Him, who accepts the existence of the after-life with no doubt, and who does good deeds, no matter to what religion she adheres, she attains to salvation in religious sense. He expresses his views as follows:
“According to Koran, Islam is worshipping Allah only, and performing all the religious rituals for Him. From this point of view, all the prophets tried to spread Islam. In the Koran, the term ‘Islam’ refers not only to the religion which was revealed to Mohammed, but also to the religions revealed to all the prophets. Because, the content of the message sent to all the prophets has always been the same. All of them call people to worship only one God, to believe in the after-life, and to do good deeds. Hence, no distinction can be made among the prophets whose mission has always been the same.” (Ates, 7)
For Ates all the prophets tried to present an infinite and divine compassionate religion to humanity and claimed that adherents of any religion who believe in one God alone, who do the right, would go to the Heaven. “But egocentrism of humans restricted the broad horizon of the divine message and each member of a religion began to claim that only themselves could go into the Heaven.” (Ates, 8) Some of the Koranic verses, to which Ates refers are as follows: “We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His Messengers.” (Baqara, 285) “Say ye: We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord: we make no difference between one and another of them: and we bow to Allah (in Islam).” (Baqara, 136)
Ates thinks that this is the most basic pillar of Koran. Thus, Koran mentions the good news for the adherents of the religions and if they obey this principle, they will go to Heaven. He refers to the following Koranic verse: “Those who believe (in the Koran), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians, any who believe in Allah and the after-life, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Baqara, 62)
If any person believes in the oneness of God, and the after-life without any doubt and if he does good deeds, and if he has comprehensive information about the prophet Mohammed, then he is expected to believe in Mohammed as a prophet too. “If he believes in this, even if he lives in accordance with the practical applications and rituals of his own religion, - and if he does not attribute partners to God - he will be pleased and content. He is not required to abandon his religion and convert to Islam.” (Ates, 14)
Talat Kocyigit, another theology professor, in his response to this article, which is entitled, ‘Muslim’s Monopoly on Heaven’(Kocyigit, 85-94), advocates that merely believing in God will not suffice to reach salvation. Kocyigit refers to the following Koranic verses: “Say (Mohammed): If you do love Allah, follow me: Allah will love you and forgive you your sins; for Allah is the Most Forgiving, Most Merciful. Say (Mohammed): Obey Allah and His Messenger: but if they turn back, Allah does not love those who reject Faith.” (Al- i Imran, 31-32)
According to Kocyigit, the only way for people to gain the love of God is to believe that Mohammed is a prophet and his messages should be followed. “Therefore, the ones who do not follow the Islamic path outlined by and completed with the last prophet of Allah, the ones who do not obey the conditions and the requirements, the orders and restrictions of this path should not fool themselves talking about love of God in vain.” (Kocyigit, 90)
As seen, in these two different examples, Suleyman Ates advocates an inclusivist understanding of religion in Islam, while Talat Kocyigit upholds an exclusivist view of Islam. Both base their claims on the Koranic verses. Although it is possible to find evidence supporting both opinions in the Koran, an inclusivist understanding of Islam centred on ‘tawhid’ (the Oneness of God) and ‘good deeds’, seems closer to Koran. This understanding of Islam might be firm foundation for intercultural dialogs.
- Ates, Suleyman, Cennet Kimsenin Tekelinde Degildir (No Monopoly on Heaven), Islami Arastirmalar Dergisi, (Journal of Islamic Researches),v. III, issue 1, Ankara 1989.
- Gokalp, Ziya, Turkculugun Esaslari (The Principles of Turkism), simplified by Yalcin Toker, Istanbul 2002.
- Gungor, Erol, Kultur Degismesi ve Milliyetcilik (Cultural Change and Nationalism), Istanbul 1984.
- Inalcik, Halil, ‘Kultur Etkilesimi, Kuresellesme’ (Cultural Interaction and Globalisation) Dogu Bati Dergisi, issue 18, Ankara 2002.
- Kocyigit, Talat, Cennet Mu’minlerin Tekelindedir (Muslim’s Monopoly on Heaven), Islami Arastirmalar Dergisi, (Journal of Islamic Researches),v. III, issue 3, Ankara 1989.
- Turkiye Diyanet Vakfi Islam Ansiklopedisi (Islam Encyclopaedia), v.VI, Istanbul 1992.
- Yaran, Cafer Sadik (ed by), Islam ve Oteki: Dinlerin Dogruluk, Kurtaricilik ve Bir Arada Yasama Sorunu (Islam and Otherness: The Truth, Salvation and Co-existence Problems of Religions), Istanbul 2001.
- Yazir, Hamdi, Islam Dusuncesinin Problemlerine Giris, (Introduction to the Problems of Islamic Thought) simplified by Recep Kilic, Ankara 1996.
Recep Kilic is Professor at Ankara University, Divinity Faculty in Ankara, TURKEY
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Governmentality and the Question of Origin - Pastoral Power and Processes of Inclusion and Exclusion
Merja Takala, email@example.com, Dept of Journalism, Media and Communication, Stockholm University, Sweden
The intent of this paper is to raise questions about possible links between nationalism, racism, Christian heritage and processes of inclusion and exclusion, and to some extent to discuss the role of communication in these processes. Religion, nationalism and racism are seen here as central parts of the cultural conditions of our knowledge and they are positioned inside the struggle of knowledge-power. My aim is to draft an outline containing the problem of welfare of all and of citizenship, and the link between pastoral power and instruments of state. I will first examine the city-citizen game, the shepherd-flock game and explore the problematic concepts of nation, state, nationalism, ethnie and race. An important aspect in the welfare of the population is the Foucauldian concept of bio-politics that has to do with the administration of living conditions. I will also look into the different meanings of the adjective white and the religious imagery that affect the construction of normalcy, and discuss how media popularizes different discourses.
2 Pastoral Power and Reason of State
Foucault’s thoughts about the reason of state can be summarized in following terms. First, the reason of state is the government by reference to reason alone, not to God or nature. It is an art of government, a secular technique of conforming to certain rational rules. These rules have reference not only to traditions, but also to knowledge. Second, reason of state is an art of government that requires that we take into account what is to be governed, namely the state. The state is here seen as a natural object despite of the juridical concern of how it is constituted. Third, the reason of state aims to reinforce the state itself, its own strength, greatness and well being. It means that the state must protect itself from the competition of other states as well as from its own internal weaknesses. States are realities that must hold out for an indefinite length of historical time and in a specific geographical space. Fourth, this art of governing presupposes a precise, concrete and measured knowledge of the strength of the state, i.e. statistics of dif-ferent kinds. The strength and capacities of other states must also be known. Lastly, the reason of state can be specified as a pastoral art of government. Human beings are of interest only in so far as they contribute to the strength of the state. (Foucault 1994, 314ff; Dean 1999, 86f) Thus the state has to take the responsibility of managing the population as a resource by practicing bio-politics. These practices develop discursive norms and a system of classification. (Danaher et al 2000, 125)
Foucault brings together the government of individuals and the government of state by aligning the pastoral power with the secular political rationality of the state. He sees the state as centralized power and pastorship as the individualizing power. These two techniques are joined together in a secular form in the problem of the welfare state (Carrette 1999, 42). He brings together the city-citizen game and the shepherd-flock game. These games seem to have nothing in common, but according to Foucault the modern state managed to combine these two games. He questions the separation between religion and culture by including it within his analysis of cultural facts, and by collapsing the division between religion and politics in the ethics of the self (Foucault 1994, 303, 311; Carrette 1999, 32f).
The City-Citizen Game
Foucault’s writings give us only relatively sketchy outlines of the city-citizen game. Dean (1999) provides a more concrete historical account of this game and ways of thinking about government. Dean speaks of euergetism, the desire to do good for the community. The first form of public gift giving emerged with the inequalities of wealth within the Greek city-state. Inequality was tolerated if the rich acted as benefactors of the community by giving funds to festivals, choruses and other similar ends. The second form is marked by reign of the notables, where political rights were given to those who could pay for the expenses of public works, monuments and their own offices as well as for banquets, festivals and other entertainments. Euergetism became an expression of the ruling class man’s social superiority. In the republican Roman Empire the oligarchy continued this Greek practice, but it aimed at winning prestige among the plebes, increasing their own glorification and extending the networks of influence and clientship. Roman euergetism can be understood as a part of particular aristocratic habitus. (Dean 1999, 77f)
Euergetism can be summarized as a practice and a way of thinking about the rule of the state, its objects, aim, and relation of rulers to themselves and to the ruled. The object of the rule was the city, the community of free citizens. The aim was the nourishment of the city by doing good for it and in process to establish oneself as a noble and memorable being. Those who were not citizens were not objects of benefaction. The relation between the ruler and the ruled was thus based on solidarity between free citizens, not on pity or charity. This form of nobility was based on deeds and not on blood. The city-citizen game implies the cultivation of particular com-portment and a form of moral personality of the ruling class, which involve a particular relation to oneself and to others. This stands in contrast to the Christian ethic of the care of the poor. (Dean 1999,78f) There is no modern equivalent to the euergetism. The only partial exception is the philanthropy, particularly in the USA, by which the rich give funds to establish museums and other institutions.
The Shepherd-Flock Game
The pastor is a shepherd, which means that his power extends beyond traditional political power. A pastor rules over a multiplicity of individuals rather than over a territory. The function of the shepherd is to guide, lead and do well for those over whom he watches. His duty is to ensure the salvation of all. He gathers together dispersed individuals and his presence and direct actions cause the flock to exist. The salvation of the flock is something different than saving them from a danger. It is a question of constant, individualized kindness. The entire flock with each one of its members must be led to good grazing ground or brought back to the fold. (Foucault 1994, 301f)
The shepherd is accountable for the actions of the entire flock, which means that he requires an in-depth knowledge of the group and of each member of the flock. He watches over them. He must know their thoughts, needs and deeds, and what happens inside their souls. He renders an account of their actions and all the good and evil they are liable to do. The sheep’s sin is im-putable to the shepherd. By saving his sheep, he saves himself. Every sheep is therefore obliged to seek salvation, not only for him, but also for the whole group. This in practice means that everyone must accept the authority of another.
Obedience comes to be a key virtue and an absolute honor. “I am humble” is the funda-mental condition for all other virtues. Obedience is thus a permanent state, the sheep must permanently submit to their pastors. (Foucault 1994, 308f; Foucault1999, 123ff, 137f; Tenkku 1981, 194; Dean 1999, 75) Christianity found two essential instruments at work in the Helle-nistic world, namely self-examination and the guidance of conscience. The aim of self-examination is to unveil the depths of the soul and open up entirely to oneself, and to the pastor, in confession. Christian conscience guiding is a constant bind that can’t be escaped, because without it one would be lost. Christian techniques of examination, confession, guid-ance and obedience have one aim – mortification. This is not death as we usually know it, but a renunciation of this world and of oneself. This “death” is supposed to provide a place in para-dise. (Foucault 1994, 310f; Foucault 1999, 142f; Danaher et al 2000, 128f)
The early Christian pastorate provides us with an image of the exercise of power that is in many ways continuous with certain of our present forms of expertise. The difference between contemporary pastoral power and the early Christian version is that today the individual is normalized in relation to scientific knowledge of populations. The effects of pastoral power are intensified through bio-politics. (Dean 1999, 75f) The reason of state breaks with the Christian government that is based on God’s revelation and commandments, and ideas of government in accordance with divine, natural and human law. The Christian virtue of obedience went through a slow transformation and became part of the conditions of a well-ordered state. It taught the individual to regulate emotions and subordinate himself politically. (Dean 1999, 88)
3 Bio-Politics: Administration of the Flock
Bio-politics means the administration of the conditions of life of the population. Bio-political interventions are made into health, habitation, urban environment, working conditions, and education. It is a form of politics that is conducted largely since the 18th century. Modern politics cannot escape bio-political government of processes that are based on population, life, procreation and sexuality; neither can it escape the deductive logic of sovereignty based on the territory, death and blood. It means that we must face up to forms of bio-political racism, i.e. racism that follows not simply from discrimination, scapegoating or institutions, but from the ways by which we think about and imagine states and their populations and seek to govern them. (Dean 1999, 145, 209; Danaher et al 2000, 89f)
Question of Origin and Political Unity
When we speak of "state" we speak of a political organization, authority and legitimacy, whereas "nation" is a descriptive category (Touraine 2002, 277). Gellner defines "state" in weberian terms as a social unity that has a monopoly for using force on a legal basis, but admits this definition doesn’t include all states (Gellner 1997, 13). Since the state has monopoly for using force, it also has the legal right to take life (for example in terms of war or death penalty). The dictionary definition of "state" is an organized political community controlled by one government that occupies a territory, or as the civil government of a country. “Nation” can be defined as the people who share the same culture, system of ideas, signs, associations, and forms of behavior and communication. People belong to the same nation if and only if they recognize each other as being part of the same nation. (Gellner 1997, 18ff). However, the word nation can be used in a manner that connotes state, i.e., nation is understood as a large community of people sharing the same history, and living in a particular territory under one government.
What is the relationship between nation and ethnicity? The dictionary defines the word "ethnic" as people having a common national or cultural tradition, relating to race or culture, denoting origin by birth or descent rather than present nationality, characteristic of or belonging to a non-Western exotic cultural tradition. Furthermore, the Greek word ethnikos meant heathen and ethnos meant nation. In short, the concept of ethnicity can be understood both as of a primordial quality, something that exists in nature and outside time, and as something historical and situational, a matter of attitudes, perceptions and sentiments.
Anthony D. Smith (1991) gives ethnic communities six attributes: a collective proper name, a myth of common ancestry, shared historical memories, one or more differentiating elements of common culture, an association with a specific homeland and a sense of solidarity for sig-nificant sectors of the population. This definition of ethnicity corresponds to that of nation. According to Smith an ethnic community must be sharply distinguished from race, since it is not a question of hereditary biological traits that allegedly determines the mental attributes of the group (Smith 1991, 20f). This distinction, however, is not as sharp as it may seem. “Race” can be defined as the major divisions of human kind having distinct physical characteristics; an ethnic group or a group descend from a common ancestor; a group of people with a common feature, or a distinct population within a species. What is the “common” in the common an-cestry? Nature or culture?
Bodily appearance is often taken to underlie race, but the phenotype itself is a social con-struction, since only certain specific physical features come to signify race. It is difficult to make any clear-cut distinction between nature and culture, because racial discourses involve both the naturalization of culture and the culturalization of nature. The important question is to which extent nature is believed to guide the molding process, and to which extent culture is believed to impose its own structure on nature. Racial discourses build on existing ideas about human similarity and diversity across time and geographic space. Pre-modern peoples noted physical variation among humans, even variations in skin color, but it was not given much significance. Darker skin was not necessarily a mark of inferiority. (Wade 2002, 9ff, 33ff)
Racial discourse emerged in the context of European expansion and colonialism and went through a period of increasing systematization. At first racial lineage was used to refer to the descendants of a common ancestor, but during the 19th century there was a shift to race as type. At the same time the importance of common origin and political unity came to expression in nationalism. Its aim was to unite cultural, ethnic and political borders within a certain territory, that is, state should denote nation. This is a combination that easily leads to conflation of race, nation and ethnicity and creates a belief that the national character is biologically determined. If "state" is understood as a political unity, then, hypothetically, a state could exist without a nation. The definition of “state” does not say anything about what kind of people live in its territory, whereas the concepts of race, ethnicity and nation emphasize the importance of common ancestry, which plays an important role in the processes of inclusion and exclusion.
Welfare and Improvement of the Flock
The concept of citizen can be defined as a member of a nation or commonwealth, either native or naturalized. We are once again back in the question of origin. The concept of citizenship is not only a question of being a legally recognized subject of a state. In everyday usage it often becomes more of an ethnic than of a juridical matter. For example, in Scandinavian countries citizenship as such is a juridical concept but it has strong ethnic connotations. An immigrant can therefore be a Swedish or Finnish citizen, but is not seen as a Swede or Finn. Such dis-tinctions may seem of minor importance, but it marks a clear symbolic boundary and organizes the society between two opposite poles. Furthermore, modern societies make a division be-tween those who are believed to be capable of bearing the freedoms and responsibilities of a citizen and those who are not and the fundamental division between these two categories re-mains remarkably unchanged (Dean 1999, 135f). A state can adopt practices of improvement to be used to divide populations on the basis of those who avail themselves of the opportunity for improvement and those who do not.
An important change around pauperism occurs during the 18th and 19th century. The notion of demoralization goes through a transformation (Dean 1999, 136). According to the early Christian belief the poor were seen as the image of God and were thus entitled to receive alms. The transformation meant that pauperism was now conceived as model a of pestilence, which in turn gave rise to the need to act on the social, moral and physical conditions that turned the laboring poor to indigent. There was believed to be a risk of contamination, if the life of the idle, criminal or poor seemed more eligible than that of a worker. This formed the bases of different kinds of interventions, sanitary reforms, poor laws and other reforms. The demoralization of the laboring masses became tied to the degeneration of race.
Eugenics relocated statistical knowledge of the population with a biological theory of evolution, and notions of norm, variation and deviation within the framework of a system of lineage and descent in which the operative terms are stock, constitution, heredity, nobility and ancestry. The struggle over the formation of social policy was a question of both nature and culture. The relation between degeneracy and reproduction is such that those who were most degenerate were believed to be the ones who were likely to breed the most and to attribute degeneracy purely to heredity. (Dean 1999, 136ff)
A key focus for Foucault’s account of bio-power is sexuality as sex is the means of access to the life of the body and the life of the species (Wade 2002, 21). Particularly women’s sexuality must be controlled, because women reproduce the group both biologically and symbolically by giving birth to the children and by teaching them the right values and moral order. This control is important because it guarantees the purity of the group both in terms of nature and culture. Women are also constituted as the symbol of the Nation. Since women reproduce the national stock, they present a potential threat of moral and racial degeneration and contamination (Gabriel 1998, 132). Women who cross cultural or racial borders are often seen as traitors or as a threat and can therefore be severely punished or excluded from the group. Furthermore, some race-biologists believed that people of mixed race were infertile, or, at least, weak, and suffered from a lack of character, imbalance and disharmony (Kramár 2000, 13; Wade 2002, 61) Ac-cording to this belief nature rules over culture. However, race as understood within the race-biology context doesn’t exist. It is a socially constructed category.
The confusion within biologism of race theories lies in its power to create a vital metaphor for certain sexualized social values, such as energy, decisiveness, enterprise and other images of dominance. This metaphor transforms bodily attributes to mental or cultural characters. Biological racism used pseudo-biological arguments in its attempt to constitute the race, im-proving it and preventing it from degenerating. Nationalism that is characterized by homoge-neity and rationalism, cultivates an idea of original, primordial national identity that has to be protected from foreign influences (Balibar, Wallerstein 2002, 83, 89f). As stated earlier, the difference between the concepts of race, nation and ethnie is not quite clear. Racial and national discourses rely on the culturalization of nature and the naturalization of culture.
4 Religious Iconography and Bio-Politics
The adjective white can signify hue, skin color and symbol. White, as a hue, can be understood both as colorlessness and as containing all colors. The hue white is a powerful Christian symbol. It symbolizes goodness, purity, virginity and lack of something - i.e., lack of sex, lack of sin, or lack of dirt both in the moral and physical context. White is also a skin color. The conflation of the different meanings of whiteness enables white people to inhabit without visual contradic-tion the highest point in the Enlightenment’s understanding of human development. White people are categorized as white, not because that is the most accurate hue to describe their skin color, but because they are seen as symbolically white. The slippage between white as a color and as colorlessness forms part of a system of thought and gives rise to a belief that white people are both something particular and nothing in particular. (Dyer 1997, 41ff) If white people were described as pink, the image of pure blood and superiority would disappear. Since whites are socialized to believe that whiteness represents goodness, it is assumed to be benign and non-threatening.
St Augustine inherited the idea of natural hierarchy between different forms of being from neo-Platonism. The closer to God, the more natural goodness and higher status. Closest to God are the archangels and the rest of the angels. Next in the Great Chain of Being are human beings, demons, animals, plants and on the bottom we find the simplest forms of being. All beings are good when they are in their proper place. This natural hierarchy of all beings is the very con-dition that guarantees the perfection of the universe. The word bad consequently means lack of perfection or lack of good. The word evil, on the other hand, means morally bad and is con-nected to the concept of sin. (Tenkku 1981, 187ff, 264ff; Wade 2002, 49f)
This leads to consideration of Mary Douglas’s expression “matter out of place“. Sand, for example, is good on the beach but bad on the floor. When it is on the floor it is dirt, i.e. out of place (Douglas 1997, 226ff; Eriksen 1999, 59ff). Dirt, or perhaps we might say stain, has a double meaning. Stain signifies a discoloration, a spot caused by contact with foreign matter (for example, a cloth covered with tea stains), or damage to reputation. Consequently, to be stainless is to be clean and pure, immaculate and sinless. We are once again facing the di-chotomy of material and immaterial, which in case of racial differences was a matter between nature and culture.
Angels are closest to the God and in the Christian iconography their natural goodness is visualized with the hue white wings and clothing as well as with light skin and hair color. Consequently, it is easy to resituate this image of goodness within the modern racial hierarchies. The result of this interfusion is a hierarchy that marks one’s position in the scale of development by conflating the symbolic power of hue white, skin white, gender and social class. For example, the new conception of pauperism combined real, existing poverty with images of degeneration and contamination. Stains can thus be associated both with dirt (manual labor or uncleanliness) and the individual’s physical and moral condition (normalcy or deviation, health or disease).
In visual popular culture, working class people are frequently presented darker than the middle class and the aristocracy, and men are pictured darker than women. Unlike women, men are sexual beings; thus the darker skin color. White women’s sexual purity is on one hand idealized and on the other hand they are objects of desire. Especially white middle-class women are marked differently from both women of lower classes and of non-white women. (see e.g. Dyer 1997, 61ff; Frankenberg 1999 a,11) Masculine attributes such as courage, autonomous action and independence are given higher value and white men are constituted as the protectors of white women.
This hierarchy can also lead us to believe that white skinned people are closest to the angels and the black closest to the demons. Other peoples are then classified according to their degree of skin whiteness. However, some subaltern whites have managed to “whiten” themselves, that is, have been accepted as one of “Us”. Both Gabriel and Dyer mention as an example the changing attitudes against Irishmen. We can see similar attitudes among Swedes against Finns. Both Finns and Irishmen have been seen as the last missing link in the chain of evolution starting from monkeys and Negroes, and ending in the civilized white European. Jews have been in a position of structural instability throughout the European history.
How white must a person be in order to be white? The answer to that question is partly linked to the culture-nature dichotomy, i.e. which characteristics are believed to be permanent and hereditary, and which ones flexible and dependent on the social environment. This ranking does not only mark the condition of one’s soul, but also one’s position in the scale of devel-opment both as an individual and as a type. It is implicitly about the imagined citizenship, about who is capable of bearing the freedoms and responsibilities of a citizen, and who is a worthy object of politics of improvement, and who is not.
5 The Role of Communication
The transition from a traditional agrarian society to a modern industrial society affected the conception of time and space. These parameters are often seen as given and self-evident, when they are in fact affected by changes in technical, social and cultural communication. Improved infrastructure (such as new roads and canals) together with new means of transportation (such as railways) brought people closer to each other. On the other hand new communication technologies, for example the printing press, the telegraph, and later on the radio, made it possible to bridge the gap between distant individuals and places. Mass media is of particular interest because it created a new form of togetherness between distant others. (see e.g. Anderson 1993, 74; Ekecrantz 1998, 45ff) For Marx, the deployment of means of communication was indissociable from the modern world market, since the transformation of all capital into industrial capital entails the rapid circulation and centralization of capital. The history of commerce is also a history of communication (Mattelart 1994, 7ff, 101). Communication is thus more than just transport or technical devices.
Changes in the means of communication had great impact on the conception of time. Time no longer presupposed a common place, i.e. “now“ no longer had to take place “here“. Stan-dardized time in the form of a mechanized clock and a standardized calendar hastened the separation of time and space. Railroads, for example, needed timetables and were thus de-pendent on the existence of standardized time in a certain geographical territory. The world ultimately had to be divided into different time zones in order to allow calculation of stan-dardized time. These changes together with capitalism, the printing press and the progress toward more standardized European languages contributed to the creation of new imagined communities. A community is imagined when its members can no longer meet or learn to know all the other members, which means that the feeling of togetherness no longer depends on sharing common space (Anderson 1993, 63). New conceptions of time and space weakened old loyalties based on common social space and history.
Luther’s separation of spiritual and temporal realms contributed to the process of institutional differentiation, which can be associated with the emergence of new political spirituality, governmentality. Distinguishing the spiritual from the temporal Reformation paved the way for a clearer separation of the functions assigned to the church and the state (Wuthnow 1989, 145 ff). The pastoral power becomes aligned with the political rationality of the state. The governing of the state and the administration of the living conditions of the population are dependent on constant and continuous communication. Media propagated the kind of mobile personality the modern society needed. Individuals should no longer feel tied to their old-fashioned beliefs and traditions but be open to new influences and insights.
News media, popular fiction and film play an important role in the discourse about nation, modernity, social engineering (bio-politics) and views about human nature by popularizing various scientific and national discourses. During the inter-war period mass media participated actively in the construction of national identity and identification of the racial or ethnic others, as well as in the discourses on eugenics and hygiene. There are many scholars (see e.g. Habel 2002, Anderson 1996, Lundgren 2002, Pollack 2001, Pietikäinen 2000, Thurén 1997, Hall 1997, Brune 1998, Dijk 1993) who have discussed the relationship between media and national identity and racial profiling at length, so I will not develop these themes any further here. Let it suffice to say that popular fiction and news media make use of powerful metaphors and familiar signs or images, and invest them in producing new meanings.
Historic narrative often provides useful genres with which to bring a distinct ideological perspective together with the lived world of experienced events. History retells the past within a particular interpretive framework. The heroes and villains are figural actors that occupy space within the discursive field and are defined by the structural features of that field. Figural action and actors provide modes of thinking, acceptable ways of behavior and possible solutions for existing problems (Wuthnow 1989, 14, 330ff). History, mass media and other cultural products function on two different levels. News media for example are partly chronicling, retelling current affairs, but these news stories have to fit into the discursive field and the more general cultural matrix in order to seem trustworthy. Cultural products must articulate closely enough with their social settings, but if they come too close they are considered biased. The set of heroes and villains in the narratives provides the clarification of the symbolic boundaries between “We” and “Them”.
For example, religious iconography and themes can be used in popular culture in a manner that may promote racial or national imagery either implicitly or explicitly. Religious motifs can be found in films like Blade Runner, Rocky, Star Wars, Platoon, Conan, Predator, Alien and many others (see e.g. Martin et al 1995, Dyer 1997). Interestingly enough, in science fiction films the machine-like creature, the cyborg or the robot, is usually a white person, preferably a white male. Perhaps the pastoral power with its concept of discipline, self-control, mortification, symbolic whiteness and bio-politics fosters an association with white machine flesh.
Media also participates in discussions of the naturalization of culture and culturalization of nature. Media, on one hand, points out those who do not fulfill the requirements of a proper citizen (see e.g. Hall 1997, Dyer 1997, Pietikäinen 2000). On the other hand, media popularizes biological discourse. Wade (2002), for example, refers to Condit’s research about different kinds of gene discourse in media. First, there is the period of classical eugenics when the dominant metaphor of human heredity was that of stockbreeding. Although there was a strong element of biological determinism, the family environment was also seen as an important factor. The next epoch, which lasted from the forties to the early fifties, is that of family genetics. Attention was on medical intervention in family reproduction to ensure normal children, and heredity meant genetic inheritance alone. However, many press articles also attributed a significant role to family environment. The discovery of DNA led to a period of genetic experimentation.
The majority of press articles still emphasized the role of both genes and environment, but the code metaphor also allowed more flexible views of genes. Finally, the eighties and nineties became the period of genetic medicine with new techniques of gene manipulation. The main metaphor is now a blueprint and the notion of genes as a starting point is developed still further. Journalists may, however, use expressions that are highly deterministic, for example “the gene for breast cancer”, but these statements are often vague leaving unclear exactly what degree of determinism is being claimed. (Wade 2002, 75f, 110) There are also other images of genes, such as images of program, library or database. The representation of genes in the popular realm is open to different readings.
It is the strategic naturalization of the natural and cultural that gives racism its chameleon powers. Opening up the notion of naturalization, beyond genetics and reductionist notions of biology, allows us to see the variability of a naturalizing discourse and how the flexibility of essentialism can fix meanings in opportunistic ways (Wade 2002, 110). Furthermore, coloni-alism and imperialism in many ways created favorable conditions for modernization of Europe, and Western news agencies often reproduced and served the colonial structures and interests (Ekecrantz 1998, 47).
6 Governmentality and the Nation State
The pastorate and the city are two images of a political community, but they are not yet images of the government of a state. We must instead look into how the pastoral power of the popula-tion, the new flock, is fused with the concept of citizenship. Governmentality is the interlocking of the government of self and the government of the state. (Carrette 1999, 42; Dean 1999, 83f) We are speaking of the adjustment between political power at work within the state as legal framework of unity, and the pastoral power with its aim to ensure, sustain and improve the lives of the each and every one. It is about the political power wielded over legal subjects and pas-toral power wielded over individuals (Foucault 1994, 307; Foucault 1999, 140).
The welfare state has inherited a number of problems (Dean 1999, 96f). We must not forget that the welfare state is also a nation-state. Modern societies are supposed to be equal, that is, the rights and freedoms are supposed to be universal and open for all, but in practice it challenged by particularism which is built in the nature of the nation state. On one hand we have the exclusive status of a citizenship, which is partly connected to the question of origin, and on the other hand we have the universal salvation of humanity of the pastorate within the ideal of welfare state. The welfare state must be secured by the fiscal instruments of the state at the same time the ethical cultivation to give is neglected. The pastoral power with its welfare of the population is linked with the reason of state and the security and strength of the state. There is also the problem of administering the flock by techniques of surveillance, discipline and bureaucracy.
A state provides a legal and administrative framework, collective civic culture and a body of citizens, which are necessarily limited and exclusive categories. A state is an organized political community controlled by one government that occupies a specific geographical ter-ritory and therefore has specific geographical and symbolic boundaries. The individual is re-duced to a citizen, to someone who accepts the laws and needs of the state, and who has no rights unless he fulfills his duties and contributes to the common good (Touraine 2002, 284). However, the individual is also a living being whose welfare must be cared for both as an individual and as a part of a population and he must be integrated within complex form of social solidarity (Dean 1999, 82).
How do we create a feeling of solidarity among the population? Cohesion within a group may depend on threat or pressure from outside, the collective consciousness, "We", is at least partly created by excluding "Others". The self is constructed and reconstructed by using common cultural signs. These processes extend over time and space and there are aspects that both belong to the social remembrance and are forgotten. (Schlesinger 1997, Schulze 1996) Nationalism as an ideology can make use of an existing culture, promote it to a national culture and consequently transform it into a nation. It is possible that, in the process, it destroys another culture, that of a small minority for example. In the process of nationalizing the masses dif-ferences between concepts of nation, state, race, ethnicity and culture are blurred. Red lines that mark borders on a map are the simplest expression of these arbitrary symbolic boundaries.
Ideologies of national culture, language, nation and ethnicity create identities and feelings of togetherness and can therefore legitimate certain type of politics, as we discovered in our previous discussion about bio-politics and the welfare and imrpovement of the population. Furthermore, when the nation-state guarantees a people’s cultural identity, culture has to be codified and standardized, and in the process it is essentialized. This in turn makes it possible to claim that people can be torn “between two cultures” as if the cultures in question were tangible homogeneous units that have come in conflict with each other. (Eriksen 1999, 46ff; Wade 2002, 28)
Minorities create disorder and confusion by threatening the imagined homogeneity and national cohesion so often considered to be the necessary condition for enforcing and main-taining the state. (Löfgren 1993; Gellner 1997, 76f, Schlesinger 1997, 70) There is no clear-cut difference between the notions of nation and ethnic community. Is the majority in a nation-state a nation or just one ethnic group among others? If the answer is “just another” group, we can question the legitimacy of its hegemonic position and power, and its position as normalcy. Attempts to challenge the existing status quo, i.e. to promote and secure cultural diversity, are usually stopped by accusations of catering to special interests and attacked for denying what are, in effect, the rights and freedoms of the majority. Accusations of reverse racism often surface when the hegemonic group feels threatened and faces increased competition from previously marginalized groups. (Gabriel 1998, 68ff) The majority of the nation state, however, rarely sees itself as “just another group”. On the contrary, it calls itself the Nation. There are no ethnic majorities, only minorities. This semantic move makes us believe that the majority’s hege-monic position is its primordial right that should not be questioned. It is all the others that are intruders.
The role of defining who does and does not belong to the nation and what is or isn’t national interest promotes historically specific and important continuities in the construction of identi-ties. Ideas of contamination and pollution have become synonymous with policing the body politic, that is the nation state (Gabriel 1998, 99f). Racism can refigure notions of national tradition and culture into more powerful ideas of national heredity, purity of national/ racial body and aesthetic ideals of national men and women. Racial essentialism doesn’t have to be about a fixed notion of essence, but of strategic inclusion of different attributes, of a changing constellation of features and a changing weighting of them. (Wade 2002, 20, 29) Racism cannot be isolated from the national environment. It isn’t the modern state that is equal but the modern nation state where the internal and external boundaries of equality are interlocked with the image of the national community and the concept of citizenship with the freedoms and rights that citizens have. Racism is not an expression for nationalism but rather a complement to it. (Balibar, Wallerstein 2002, 76, 82, original italics)
Bio-politics strengthens images of health, vigor, fitness, vitality, progeny, survival and race. Thus the shepherd-flock game and the city-citizen game are transmuted into the eugenic ordering of biological existence. They are articulated upon the themes of purity of blood and the myth of the fatherland. (Dean 1999, 141) One aspect in the purification of one’s own race is to improve the stock. As paradoxical as it may sound, eugenics was also a form of social policy. In more extreme forms of racism a possible desired elimination of other races, or a desire to expose one’s own race to a universal and absolute danger, to the risk of death and total destruction, are other aspects of this purification.
Furthermore, nationalism, nation state and national identity have proven important ideo-logical and political sites for the formation and re-affirmation of whiteness. Normative whiteness can hide behind a claim to speak for everyone. However, it cannot be seen as fixed ethnic or physical characteristics. Subordination and dominance have characterized relation-ships between different whites and whiteness has been constructed in opposition to both black and subaltern white ethnicities. The ontological status of being white has obscured processes of racialization and use of one version of whiteness against another. (Gabriel 1998, 131, 184f; Dyer 1997, 48ff) The power of whiteness lies in a set of discursive techniques including ex-nomination, naturalization and universalization (Gabriel 1998, 13f). Another aspect is the control of the gaze, which is one of the dehumanizing practices used against the Other. Whiteness is usually left unexamined. It is “an unmarked marker”. (Gabriel 1998, 11; Frankenberg 1999 b, 1ff)
What is the relationship between governmentality and symbolic whiteness? As stated earlier the white hue symbolizes purity, virginity, goodness, virtue and the original innocence that existed in paradise. It can also be understood as self-control. To achieve this immaculateness one must rely on constant self-examination and conscious-guidance, which leads us to the shepherd-flock game. When the symbolic whiteness merges with the white skin, ideas of evolution and “natural” racial domination and subordination emerge. Interestingly enough black is does not only symbolize the opposite of whiteness – contamination, pollution, evil, vice and uncon-trolled sexuality. It is also the hue that is the negation to earthly vanity. Black is also the color of the priest’s clothing, of sorrow and penance. In the Resurrection this blackness shall turn into white, or should we say, there shall be light. Does that mean that in order to become modern and developed in the secular world, one has to see the light and become white?
When the pastoral power is fused with the reason of state, racism and modern nationalism, we get the vision of common future and common destiny, i.e. the survival of the individual is dependent on the survival of the nation state and the flock. Instead of teaching explicit obedience to the state itself, a certain moral order is emphasized, which implicitly includes loyalty to the nation state. The national character and the nation are constituted as a myth, as an ideal that shows the limits of acceptable behavior. Its function is to show the path to the desirable common future. If every individual keeps the right “faith” (the moral order that is seen as central to the Nation), the whole collective will reach the desired future, the Paradise – may it be the People’s Home, the Garden State, or socialism in one country. This is a bind that can’t be escaped because without it everyone would be lost. Accordingly, the image of black skin and/or the symbolically black “Other” shows what the future would be like if we let go.
Every ideological structure is vulnerable at its margins. If boundaries are moved, the whole pattern of fundamental social experiences changes. Hybridization and creolization blur sym-bolic borders and are thus seen as threats. If we can no longer tell who is who, what happens to the national, cultural and ethnic identities? How do we then know which norms to follow? Purity, however, hinders change, compromise and ambiguity in its attempt to organize all human experiences into logical categories without contradictions. That, in itself, is bound to lead to contradictions. The contamination of sacred ideals with images of pollution and dirt serves two purposes. Dirt symbolizes disorder and need for cleansing (or disciplining). Images of dirt provide, by negative example, clarification of what “We” are and what “We” are not. Since the difference between symbolic whiteness and skin white is blurred, the need for cleansing is easily understood in terms of both moral and racial or ethnic purity. Therefore, we can say that both religion and nationalism mark the difficulty we have in combining the uni-versalism of the pastoral power and the concepts of democracy and equality, and the particu-larism caused by the citizenship. People’s Home, yes, but who are the people?
I have tried to explore the unmarked marker and discuss the cultural conditions of our knowledge. However, I make no claim that the exclusion of “undesirable” elements is solely a European or a Western phenomenon. My aim has been to examine a hegemonic belief system, i.e. how whiteness is constituted as normality and how the conflation between white skin and the symbolic power of white a hue, as well as the ambiguous nature-culture dichotomy, holds us captive to racial imagery. Racists and anti-racists, ethnic majorities and minorities alike are caught in the same hegemonic belief system. By marking the unmarked marker we can question the normality and the legitimacy of the white hegemony, and thus make the arbitrary symbolic boundaries visible.
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EDUCATING THE PUBLIC ABOUT GOOD CORPORATE GOVERNANCE PRACTICES THROUGH MARKETING PUBLIC RELATIONS AND MEDIA
Conference Session: Global Media Ethics
Boonchai Hongcharu, Ph.D.
Graduate School of Business Administration
National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA)
Key Words: Corporate Governance, Marketing Public Relations, Media, Corporate ethics education
The recent economic crisis in Asia has prompted the public to be aware of good corporate governance practices. Even though voluntary and regulatory approaches to enhance good corporate governance practices have been used, these approaches normally do not provide speedy and apparent results. Among all the measures that have been taken, the public seems to be forgotten and there has been no significant effort to educate the public for this important concept.
This paper analyzes the problems of the current approaches that try to enhance good corporate governance practices and proposes a model of marketing public relations along with public relation and media tools to educate the public about this significant corporate ethics. Implications for applying the model for the appropriate target audiences will also be provided.
Educating the Public about Good Corporate Governance Practices through Marketing Public Relations and Media
The concept of corporate governance has increasingly diffused into the society, as most countries have demanded for fairness, transparency and responsibilities from the corporations. However, the diffusion of corporate governance seems to be slower than it should be as the public is still unaware of this important concept in the free market economy, making it very difficult to implement good corporate governance practices. Since corporate governance affects all stakeholders, to encourage the public to monitor and support good corporate governance implementation is an important task that would bring this concept into practice. This paper reviews the need for good corporate governance practices and investigates the problems of the public in understanding and supporting the concept. To increase awareness of good corporate governance, a model of marketing public relations and media to educate the public will be proposed. Factors that are significant to the use of marketing public relations and media to educate the public about corporate governance will be studied.
Since the Asian financial crisis in 1997, many global organizations have attempted to find the root cause of the economic problems, and identified the lack of corporate governance as one of the causes that lead to the demise of corporations and the macroeconomic demolition. Corporate governance is a new idea in several developing nations, especially in Asia where the structure of corporate formation and legal institutions are different from the Western society. The mixture of Western corporate structure and ownership and the Asian way of doing business has blurred the understanding of the need and application of corporate governance for Asian companies and made it difficult to institutionalize the concept. However, it was found that some companies in the developed economies also had corporate governance problems. The obvious cases were Enron and World Com in the United States in 2002.
The formal document that sparked the interest of corporate governance was the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’ s Principles of Corporate Governance. The principles were endorsed by the ministers of OECD countries on 26-27 May 1999. The main concepts of the OECD principles include the rights of shareholders, the equitable treatment (fairness) of shareholders, the roles of stakeholders, disclosure and transparency and the responsibilities of the board. OECD believed that the cooperation between the company, its board, shareholders and stakeholders along with the government’s macroeconomic policies would enhance economic efficiency (OECD, 1999). Therefore, the emphasis on corporate governance will strengthen the microeconomic structure through the objectives that each company sets. Moreover, corporate governance focuses on the separation of ownership and control (Shleifer & Vishny, 1997). This concept has been the foundation of corporations in the free market economy.
From the above principles, corporate governance is the process which aims at directing and controlling the management of the company on a strategic level, leading to greater shareholder’s value and shareholders’ beliefs with concern of business ethics and higher quality of life of people in the society.
It is apparent that corporate governance is indispensable for any company that uses public funds. As shareholders or creditors of the company, the public has a right for transparent information and has a right for participating in decision-making process of the company.
Shareholders, Stakeholders, Management and the Board of Directors
The company regularly contacts with certain groups of people. They are affected whether or not the company decides to practice good corporate governance. This section reviews the roles of these groups of people to understand the situation faces by them more thoroughly.
Problems of Educating the Public about Corporate Governance
Shareholders. In the formation of a corporation, shareholders are the provider of capital. A company is formed by gathering shareholder’s fund. It is the responsibility of the company to ensure that the company will dispense the capital with prudence and to maximize the shareholder’s wealth in the long run.
As providers of capital to the company, shareholders have a right to vote for various matters of the company and the right to appoint the management. Thus, the company needs to disclose the necessary information for the shareholders to make appropriate decisions. This is the reason why transparency is essential for good corporate governance practices. In Asia, many companies are owned by a large single entity, e.g. family, conglomerate, government, individual, etc. The majority shareholders run the company and at the same time function as the board of directors. This violates the separation between the board of directors, shareholders and management. However, it does not mean that the family owned corporations lack corporate governance, since the separation of control can be done through the appointment of independent directors.
The Management. In the traditional corporations, one person functions as the owner and manager at the same time. With the beginning of modern corporations, professional managers, who may not be the shareholders of the firm, are responsible for running the corporation on a day-to-day basis (Kaen, 2003). The roles and responsibilities of shareholders and managers are split with possible conflicts of interest between the two parities. In modern corporations, the management is the employees of the corporation committed to implement its strategic plan. The management should perform their duties with business ethics and social responsibility. The roles of the management and the board of directors should be totally separated so that the control system can work properly.
Board of Directors. The main function of the board of directors is to monitor the performance of the management. The board consists of representatives of the shareholders and independent groups of people who can strategically plan for the direction of the company. Several committees can be appointed depending on the needs of the corporations, e.g. the audit committee, who are responsible for monitoring and auditing the financial information of the firm; the compensation committee, who are responsible for deciding compensation for the board itself and the management; the corporate governance committee, who monitor the progress of the company in practicing good corporate governance, etc.
However, some of the board members do not live up to the standards and duties as stated. Sometimes, they are not aware of the roles and responsibilities that they should have for the company. Some of them even admitted that they were financially illiterate. Therefore, the board does not fulfill its duties as the control unit of the corporation. This has lowered the standard of corporate governance practices of the company, since the management can make any decision they want without sufficient monitoring from the board.
Stakeholders. In today’s business, the company has to deal with multiple parties. As the company tries to create good relationship with these parties, it hopes to strengthen its capabilities to maximize profit in the long run. With the relationship that companies have with each other, they try to ensure that their parties are not violating good corporate governance practices. Companies may feel reluctant to do business with companies that are unethical, conceal information to the public, pollute the environment, etc. Instead, more companies have decided to be ethical and socially responsible for the stakeholders including suppliers, customers, creditors, employees, government, neighboring community and the media. One of the unique problems that most companies have is that they often ignore the stakeholders. As a result, it is not surprised that most of the stakeholders are not aware of what happens in the company, even employees who are closest to the company are sometimes unaware of important news of the company such as mergers and acquisitions, sales promotion, change of management, etc.
The relationship between the company and its stakeholders is expected to increase as the company gradually shows more responsibilities and contributions to the society and the environment. This has sparked the trend of “corporate social responsibility. Gregory and Pollack (2002, p.42) has defined corporate social responsibility as “responsibly-grounded business decision-making that considers the broad impact of corporate actions on people, communities and environment”. As companies need to be more transparent, stakeholders are the group of people that the company must improve its disclosure of information, and the company needs to inform them about its efforts to improve corporate governance and corporate social responsibility.
To promote good corporate governance practices, governments can depend on voluntary and regulatory approaches. The voluntary approaches call for the companies to follow good corporate governance guidelines set up by the government. This includes appointment of more independent directors in proportion to the total directors, fair treatment of minority shareholders, transparent disclosure of company’s information, etc. The regulatory approach depends on the legal procedures to enforce companies to follow good corporate governance related laws which include laws governing the publicly-listed companies, the stock exchange law, the securities exchange commission law, which monitor the performance and disclosure of information of the publicly listed firms, etc. The governments normally enforce corporate governance practices of public institutions such as financial institutions through the Central bank and other banking related laws.
As corporate governance is a new concept, most of the players in business are still unaware of the problems of lacking corporate governance. This problem is prevalent among all business participants.
Shareholders often ignore the corporate governance practices of the corporations they hold the shares, partly because most of the shareholders are short-term punters who do not care for the well being of the firms on a long-term basis. Others simply think that one vote does not mean anything when the company holds a shareholder’s meeting. The problem of shareholders’ ignorance results in lacking performance monitoring from the owners’ side. With the structure of today’s securities trading that emphasizes short-term trading instead of long-term investment, the shareholders generally do not actively participate in exercising their voting rights. In certain economies where the mutual fund industry is more developed, it is also found that mutual fund companies seldom have any actions toward the companies that lack good corporate governance practices, since most mutual fund companies are too preoccupied with their main business. Their ultimate solution to the companies that lack corporate governance is to sell those shares.
The problem is more complicated considering the fair treatment of minority shareholders. The majority shareholders are normally the one who sets the agenda for the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of shareholders resulting in one-side communication from the company to the shareholders. Therefore, the majority shareholders control the direction that the company wants to head for. The fair treatment of minority shareholders issue is generally included in the securities exchange commission laws. However, if the minority shareholders simply do not exercise their rights and are unaware of their own rights, it is virtually impossible to enhance good corporate governance practices from the shareholder’s side.
The Management normally knows what happens most in the company. However, the management can ignore its responsibilities for the shareholders and the monitoring role of the board of directors. Moreover, good management teams are expected to show corporate social responsibility to the public in every aspect that the company decides to move. It is rather difficult since, in any large corporation, what the company wants to do always affects one group or another. For instance, the management is facing with an ethical dilemma whether to build a power plant that is harmful to the environment and lie to the public, or to tell the truth and decide not to pursue their action. The relationship between the management and other parties is dependent upon successful communication and transparent disclosure of information. One of the corporate governance problems resulted from the abuse information by the management is insider trading. Insider trading is very difficult to detect and most of the shareholders, the authorities, the management and the board members, are unaware of. It is, in this case, illegal and unethical for the management to take advantage of the information before it reaches the public.
Board of directors needs to be connected with the company on a regular basis. In large corporations, a company secretary functions as a liaison between the management and the board of directors. The company secretary makes appointments for board meetings and describes the agenda of the meeting to the board. However, in companies that lack corporate governance, it is often found that the board members do not perform their roles and responsibilities properly, leading to an improper check-and-balance system in the company. This is the reason why government agencies in many countries have published a guideline for the roles and responsibilities of the board of directors. Moreover, in some countries, the Institutes of Directors have been established to formally educate the board members. The training is encouraged or even required by the authorities in certain countries e.g. Malaysia.
Stakeholders are the largest group and the term covers a large variety of players that can take an opposite interest when dealing with the company e.g. suppliers and customers, customers and employees, etc. Therefore, the company often finds it difficult to avoid conflicts with any one party of the stakeholders. However, the stakeholders are not quite concerned with good corporate governance practices of the firm they are dealing with unless the issue is directly affected them. In some instances, the stakeholders are sometimes unaware that what they are doing is a bad corporate governance practice. For instance, most company’s suppliers or creditors know the sales information of the company and they have the responsibility to protect the confidentiality of their customers. The suppliers or creditors of the company can act irresponsibly and release the information to the competitors or to the public. Furthermore, many companies are charged with price fixing, when they negotiate or signal the price movement with their competitors. This unethical conduct is difficult for the public or the authority to notice. With the help of information technology, price information can be changed or matched almost immediately. Other unethical and irresponsible conducts include, but not limited to, bribing the government officials, underreporting the income tax, concealing the information necessary for the consumers to make purchasing decisions, polluting the environment, etc.
The real problem is that lack of corporate governance is often occurred while the participants are not aware that what they are doing is wrong and there is no attempt to educate the wrongdoers that the actions are considered poor corporate governance practices. For instance, favoritism is seen, in many societies, as a good deed and is often touted or supported by the society. However, in today’s business, favoritism is viewed as an injustice. Some companies even established an electronic procurement system to make sure that favoritism does not happen.
Educating the Public through Marketing Public Relations (MPR) and Media
Even though the training of institutes and associations of directors have been going on for some time, the education of the board members is just only a small fraction of the total target audience that can bring corporate governance to the society. While the legislative bodies are trying to come up with new legislature that will strengthen corporate governance and the governments and courts of laws are monitoring the corporate governance practices, educating the public about the significance of corporate governance is virtually non-existent. Therefore, educating the public about corporate governance in a systematic way is needed, because the public can put pressure on the companies through market forces. They can send signals to these companies that they want to deal with the ones with good corporate governance.
The profile of the public that needs corporate governance education fits with those that public relations generally serves, since public relations is “the management of communication between an organization and its publics” (Hunt & Grunig, 1994, p.6). Public relations is suitable when an organization needs to identify itself with the target groups and when the company wants to strengthen the relationship with the group (Pickton & Broderick, 2001). However, the scope of public relations is very wide and generally concerns with the overall organization.
Marketing Public Relations (MPR) is a narrower aspect of public relations concerning with the consumers and the brand of the company (Harris, 1998; Duncan, 2003). Marketing public relations creates “awareness, inform, interest, excite, educate, generates understanding, build trusts, encourage loyalty and even helps generate sale” (Pickton & Broderick, 2001, p.492). The target audiences of marketing public relations are the public, which includes consumers, opinion leaders, employees, stakeholders, media, government, suppliers, creditors, etc.
In the corporate governance case, we treat the concept as a brand that we need to communicate to the target audience. Through marketing public relations, we try to “sell” the concept to the public through a campaign that would raise the awareness of the concept in the first place. The effort can be a cooperation among public and private sectors.
Figure 1. A Model of Marketing Public Relations (MPR) and Media communication to educate good corporate governance practices
A Model of Marketing Public Relations (MPR) and Media communication to educate good corporate governance practices
This model depicts the relationship of important players in educating the public about good corporate governance practices. The two-way signs show the interactive communication between the two parties. While the one-way signs imply that the source of communication generally initiates the communication or the ties often flow heavily on the one-way basis, while two-way communication happens less often.
Among the communication flow, the government can directly participate in developing good corporate governance. For example, the Government of Thailand established a national committee to promote corporate governance. Otherwise, the government can work closely with the assistance from other supporting agencies. These agencies are not governmental but function as a supporter of public and private efforts to promote corporate governance. They include:
- Securities Exchange Commission
- Stock Exchanges
- Institute of Directors or National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD- USA) which provide training courses for board members
- Global Corporate Governance Forum, a joint effort of the World Bank and Organisation of Economic Cooperation Development (OECD)
- Central banks
- Financial institutions
Tools of Marketing Public Relations
The governments announce news and policies to the media through press releases and press conferences. In general, the non-governmental supporting agencies work to promote corporate governance. They keep close contact with the governments through global and regional forum or meetings, and link with large corporations through their business activities and training programs, newsletters, websites, press releases, press conference, interviews, events, etc. For instance, some Institutes of Directors and stock exchanges arrange contests or rank the corporate governance performance annually to attract attention from the companies and the public. The supporting agencies can devote a special corporate governance section in their website, which is one of the most efficient ways for these agencies to contact and promote corporate governance to the public. As a result of their limited budget and objectives that limit the communication only to their business communities, it is normally inefficient and costly for the supporting agencies to connect with the general public through advertising.
The company is centered in the model, as every public eye is looking at what a company does to show its good corporate governance practices. Several parities are involved with the company: shareholders, management, board of directors and stakeholders. The interrelationship between all these parties is a key to corporate governance.
Moreover, the company also connects with the public through the products and brands it sells to the customers, and sometimes it depends on the media to reach the general public. One of the main interests of the public should be the company’s corporate governance and corporate social responsibility efforts.
Tools of Marketing Public Relations.
The company can use several MPR tools to educate the related parties in corporate governance.
- Publish newsletters or corporate literature e.g. annual report, to disclose company-related information to the shareholders, board of directors or stakeholders on a regular basis
- Release information in the company’s website to reach wider audiences
- Arrange press conferences for any corporate governance or corporate social responsibility activities
- Emphasize corporate governance in brands, logos, product placement materials, advertising, etc.
- Mention the corporate governance and corporate social responsibility activities when the top management appears for any interviews and exclusives
- Donate or sponsor the corporate governance supporting events to generate publicity.
The media function as a linkage between the government, the companies and the public. The media are closely linked with the company through the business activities they are conducting e.g. advertising, publicity, company news, etc. However, the media also link the public with news and public policy of the government or companies. The supporting agencies seldom depend on media. The media can cover news about corporate governance on a regular basis and point out the significance of corporate governance to the public.
It is interesting to find out the roles of media as an educator of corporate ethics and disseminate the transparent corporate information to the public. For example, we often find that business news channels are very careful to disclaim themselves and ask the interviewees to disclaim themselves if they have any benefits from the parties they are mentioning. This is done as a sign of good corporate governance to the audiences and warns the audiences of the possible biased points of view that they may receive. In most cases, the audiences may view this gesture as legal protection procedures instead of practicing good corporate governance.
The public is our target audience. It is expected that the cooperation between government, supporting agencies, companies and media would bring corporate governance into the perception of the public through all communication activities that marketing public relations and media bring. The public, through the help of media, would use their bargaining power as customers to force the company to follow good corporate governance practices. At the same time, the public also functions as a watchdog that will hopefully monitor the performance of the company.
Factors that are Significant towards Using Marketing Public Relations (MPR) and Media to Educate the Public about Corporate Governance
Treating corporate governance as a brand. It is possible to communicate the innovative and abstract concept as a brand through marketing public relations, since MPR is generally used to communicate a brand or product to the target customers. We can treat corporate governance as a concept that we try to introduce to the public. MPR can serve as lead generation before the advertising campaign starts, and thus reducing advertising expenses (Belch & Belch, 2001). Corporate governance can appear as slogan or theme in marketing and corporate communications. The message can be implicitly or explicitly executed. The implicit message can avoid resistance from the audience and simultaneously shows how transparent the company and its product can be. The explicit message simply states corporate governance as the direction the company wants to pursue. A lot of companies that want to show their corporate social responsibility also communicate to the public so that they appreciate what the company has initiated.
Treating the corporate governance concept as a brand has been done by some firms that tried to communicate with the public that the company follows good corporate governance guidelines. A clear example in this case was a building and construction conglomerate, Siam Cement Public Company Limited, which used the “Thai corporate governance” as the company’s advertising slogan, bringing the concept to the general public for the first time in Thailand in 2001.
Integration of communication efforts. A successful communication campaign depends on the integration of all communication efforts. In integrated marketing communications, coordination of all promotion mix elements, in message design and media use, forms an integrated effort that leads to the clarity of the message and efficient use of budget (Belch & Belch, 2001). Since marketing public relations and media advertising are parts of promotion mix elements, the integration of these two elements and other promotion mix elements i.e. direct marketing, sales promotion and personal selling, would result in a very efficient and successful campaign.
Continuing program. Successful public relations campaigns are usually a continuing one with good strategic planning. Advertising campaigns are too costly for organizations to pursue on a long-term basis. Marketing public relations is more appropriate for a continuing program to educate the public about corporate governance, since it is more cost-effective and it targets smaller groups of audiences. Successful public relations campaigns include the worldwide campaign against tuberculosis, the Smokey Bear campaign for wildfire prevention and outdoor fire safety in the United States, etc. These continuing campaigns can be examples for today’s corporate governance and anti-terrorism.
Linkage with commercial activities. Since corporate governance deals with the firms’ activities and their responsibilities for different parties, it is essential for the campaign to educate corporate governance to tie with commercial activities of the company. This is because it would be more efficient to integrate the activities that the company is doing with the responsibilities and disclosure of information to the public. The linkage would encompass all possible activities that the company performs.
Evaluation. To monitor the progress of marketing public relations campaigns, evaluation of the results must be executed from time to time. This helps the organizations know where they stand in an effort to educate the public about corporate governance. The pre-campaign and post-campaign comparisons should provide the results for the organization to adjust their MPR campaign. Evaluation of the campaign includes interviewing the public about the awareness of corporate governance and the various communication objectives that the MPR tries to reach. The examples are the linkages of brands, logos and the public attitudes on the company’s corporate governance practices, basic knowledge of the public about corporate governance or agencies that support corporate governance, etc.
Educating the public about corporate governance needs a continuing MPR plan. However, it is beyond the scope of this paper to outline the message design of MPR that is appropriate to educate a large variety of target audiences, as their profiles and the organization’s communication objectives vary. This paper has suggested the significant players and possible methods of marketing public relations and media’s roles in educating the public about corporate governance.
Creating the corporate ethics depends on cooperation of various players in the business world e.g. governments, stakeholders, companies, media and the public, etc. If the objectives of cultivating corporate governance within any organization are to be reached, it is the roles and responsibilities of the public to monitor the performance of the company continuously. Through their bargaining power in the market as a customer, the company needs to listen to them and practice what the public perceives as the ethical values with the help of marketing public relations and media.
- Belch, George, E. & Belch, M.A. (2001). Advertising and Promotion: An Integrated Marketing Communications Perspective. Fifth Edition. Boston: Irwin McGraw-Hill.
- Duncan, T. (2002). IMC: Using Advertising & Promotion to Build Brands. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Gregory, H.J. & Pollack, J.G. (March, 2002). “Corporate social responsibility.” Global Counsel. p. 41-53.
- Harris, T. L. (1998). Value-added Public Relations: the Secret Weapon of Integrated Marketing. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC Business Books.
- Hunt, T & Grunig, J.E. (1994). Public Relations Techniques. Harcourt Brace.
- Kaen, F.R. (2003). A Blueprint for Corporate Governance: Strategy, Accountability and the Preservation of Shareholder Value. New York: American Management Association.
- Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (1999). OECD Principles of Corporate Governance. Paris, France: OECD Publications.
- Pickton, D. & Broderick, A. (2001). Integrated Marketing Communications. Essex, UK: Pearson Education Limited.
- Shleifer, A. & Vishny, R.W. (June, 1997). “A survey of corporate governance” Journal of Finance. Vol.52, No. 2. p. 737-783.
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The Transformation of Japan in the 1870's in the Eyes of the Local Anglo-Saxon Press 1)
The present topic, the views of the Anglo-Saxon press in Japan on the transformation of that country during the 1870's, is closely connected with general problem of relations between Japan and the western world and of interaction between the Japanese and western cultures. The early part of the Meiji period (1868-1912) after the Meiji Restoration of 1868 is looked on as a time when Japan, for reasons of her own security, attempted to adopt the fruits of western culture in as short time as possible. The fall of the old Tokugawa military government and the Meiji Restoration of 1868 meant a vast upheavel in Japanese life. Although its predecessor had already intiated the modernization of the country, the Meiji oligarchy set about this task in earnest. Their overriding principle may be summed up in the slogan fukoku-ky™hei, ”to prosper the nation and strengthen its defences”, i.e. Japan was to be built up in every way in order to be able to respond to the western cultural expansion and maintain its soreignity.
An advanced eastern Asia culture was borrowing from a western culture that was itself far more confident than at any time previously of its own superiority over all others. The group of westerners who probably felt the impact of this collosion and interaction most intimately, especially since it impinged on their own interests, was the community actually living in Japan, the views of whom were represented best by their newspapers and magazines published by them and for them.
The present paper represents above all an attempt at studying the interpretation given by eight newspapers and magazines to the reforms taking place in Japan in the 1870's: what their attitude was to these events, what they saw their own role in them to be, what image they conveyed of Japan and the Japanese, and why. It is hoped by means of this approache to be able to discover in more general terms the fundamental difficulties attached to such an encounter between two cultures and to examine how those difficulties reflected the general outlook on the world espoused by the westerner at that time.
I have laid stress on the fact that by studying an image one can form a picture of the creator of that image, the observer or the subject, to the extent that an image can tell more about its creator as about its object. I have also laid stress on the fact that people's impressions of other people and cultures are dependent on their own outlook on the world, which is turn affected by matters of time, place, circumstances, personal background, education, basic personality and the political conditions and power structures prevailing at the time they conceived these opinions. Thus it is possible that images, outlooks and impressions of other people and other cultures may reflect the real world view prevailing at a given period in time. 2)
The papers took a fairly understanding view of Japanese culture in the early 1870's, and even assigned especial value to certain features of it by comparison with western culture. In accordance with the traditional favourable image of Japan in western eyes, certain chracteristics like students' politeness and sincerity and womens' awareness of duties were perceived in the Japanese which were regarded as setting them above all other nations. Even so, the central theme in their writings as a whole was a sincere belief in the superiority of western culture and its leading role in the world.
The consequence of this was that the papers were continuously stressing that Japan could not acquire in a few years what it had taken the peoples of Europe centuries to achieve. Progress could only be made by acting slowly, painstakingly and wisely. Comparisons were made in this connection between the laws of growth and development in the social organism and the human organism, to the extent that the modernisation process in Japan came to be evaluated in terms of the latest trends in western ideology, the evolutionary concepts of popularised social Darwinism and in particular the notion of organism as employed in Spencerism.
The criticism of the rapidity of the changes was also frequently an expression of a fear of revolution. The British newspapers in Japan, like those in Great Britain, followed the Japanese 'revolution' with anxiety after the events of the Paris Commune in 1871.
On the other hand, a certin note of approval began to enter the references to the speed of the reforms as Japan gradually adopted western inventions such as the railway, presumably in response to the country's positive attitude towards European culture, which appealed to the western ego. The reforms also met with particular approval at points where they impinged on western interests. Efforts were then made to hurry them along, and any delays met with criticism.
It is interesting to note that all writers regarded Japan from the outset as an agricultural country and even later set little store by her efforts to develop her own industries. Apart from the liberal principles of free trade, this outlook obviously arose out of the interests of the manufactures of western industrial goods and their importers, i.e. the western merchants of Japan themselves.
In the early 1870's the British papers in Japan showed the opposition to the United States, a sentiment which appeared to be based partly on the different commercial philosophies of the two countries, Britain representing free trade and the United States at that time protectionism, tinged by an element of competition between them, and partly on aversion to an upstar republican society.
Outstanding features of the highly British-centered way of thinking were the emphasis on conservative values tending to preserve the status quo in society - as shown by its anxiety over the fate of the aristocracy in Japan, the prospect of worldwide affluence and peace offered by international trade, the role of Britain as guarantor for this, and the role of the circumstances prevailing in the British sphere as the guidelines for it, which naturally would at the same time serve the interests of the British merchants in Japan.
The western press in Japan in the early 1870's was thus concerned above all with commercial aspects of the country's development, as they represented fundamentally commercial interests, and they had adopted a tone of criticism and instruction in accordance with the principles which they believed to be right. For instance The Weekly Mail looked on the foreign press as playing a highly important role, which included the maintaining of a continuous stream of criticism of a European kind and based on a European viewpoint which it believed reached the ears of the ruling and educated classes in Japan and even influenced their actions. This was a status which, it claimed, had not been achieved by the western press in India, Hong Kong or Shanghai.
The Formosan Expedition of 1874 may be looked on as a watershed in the image of Japan conveyed by the foreign newspapers. When a Ryžkyžan ship had been wrecked in 1871 in Formosa, local tribe had murdered over fifty of its crew, only twelve had escaped. This gave Japan her excuse in invade Formosa. Japan had annexed The Ryžkyž islands in 1873 and its naval and military forces demanded the right to punish the tribes which had murdered the Ryžkyžan castaways. Sending a punitive expedition to Formosa, which was the Chinese prefecture, was one way for the Japanese government to allay the rising discontent of the former samurai class.
The success of the Japanese in that venture, the first external evidence of the country's new-found power, obviously affected the views held by its foreign residents. Both the country itself and its people had to be taken very much more seriously than heretofore. Where some of the Japanese efforts to modernise their country had appeared quaint to western eyes prior to the expedition, this picture had now been shattered, at least in part, and a new image had emerged of the new, modern ”young Japan”. The Formosan expedition also served to highlight the sharp contrast between the papers in their attitude towards Japan.
In spite of the disagreements between the various publications, the question of the exterritorial rights was one on which all of them except for the American-owned Tokio Times were agreed. At no time during the 1870's was Japan regarded as fit to try and sentence foreigners for breaking law. At first the papers pointed mostly to the use of torture, until this was discontinued in 1876, after which the most common argument was administrative immaturity and the lack of a constitutional system.
The papers engaged in defending the commercial interests of the westerners continued to do this by all means at their disposal. They supported the notion of free trade and moves to allow foreign capital to enter the country, and accordingly spoke out against government interference in economic matters, government support for industry and commerce and direct government monopolies. A constant target for their criticism in this respect continued to be protectionism on the American model, behind which presumably lay a fear that Japan would seek support from the United States and attempt to increase trade with her at the expense of Britain. One advocate of protectionism was the Tokio Times, the proprietor of which, Edward H. House, with his American background, wrote in support of stronger trade relations between Japan and the United States. It was precisely because of this element of commercial, and also political competition that the Tokio Times was constantly 'at war' with the other papers.
The exclusive orientation towards western culture in the mid-1870's is illustrated well by the fact that everything connected with modern western society was deemed worthy of praise, while no value at all was assigned to traditional Japanese culture, its poetry, theatre, painting or sculpture. In other words, the western press seemed to be just as much against these as were the Japanese themselves, who went out of their way to destroy the remnants of their own culture at this period.
The western newspapers continued to feel that they were fulfilling an important role in Japan in the latter half of the 1870's, as seen from their attitude to the press ordinances, which placed restrictions on the new Japanese newspapers, and from the value they placed on what they themselves were writing. These attitudes again reflected a British centred, liberal view of the world. Only the Tokio Times, in accordance with its policy of support for the government, was unreservedly in favour of the ordinances.
The papers were constantly emphasizing the importance of their own contribution to the modernisation of Japan, to the extent that this seemed to provide the rationale for everything they did, quite a different rationale from that arising from the task of serving a foreign readership alone.
Although the papers spoke out on behalf of personal freedom and the blessing conferred by this on the whole of mankind, they were dubious about the progressive measures demanded in Japan, since they did not regard the country as fully prepared for such changes. It was also evidently the British conservative tradition and the fear of revolutionary action that moved the papers to make repeated demands for the creation of a new aristocracy.
The Satsuma Rebellion of former samurai in 1877 in the southern part of Japan marked a new turning point in the attitude of the press towards Japan and its victorious government. All of them except for the Tokio Times were critical of the government during the revolt and came down on the side of the rebels, which was a clear expression of the doubts entertained by the vast majority of western settlers regarding the capabilities of the government. It would seem that its modernisation programme had not met up to the papers' expectations and that they were giving vent to their frustrations by supporting the rebels. This could not have increased respect for the western press, or for westerners in general, amongst the Japanese, any more than did the notion of the hereditary superiority of the white race over all others, which also gained still greater emphasis at the time of the rebellion. Other factors contributing to the frustration felt by the westerners were undoubtedly the need for security and anxiety over the damage that might be done to their commercial interests.
In spite of the criticism voiced during the rebellion, the eventual government victory was looked on as representing stabilisation of society after the turmoil of the early years of the 1870's. It strengthened the position of the government, and of Japan in general, in the eyes of the foreigners, to the extent that the papers were inclined to look on the government's moderate treatment of the defeated rebels as a victory for the western model of cilisation.
Even after all this, however, the essential issue in Japan when examined from a British viewpoint concerned the Britons' own interests in the face of both the political and military threat posed by Russia and the American commercial competition presented by the Tokio Times, and it was this that lay behind the British-owned papers' reluctance to compromise over the low customs tariffs which favoured the foreign merchants or the question of rescinding the exterritorial rights enjoyed by foreigners.
Evidently on account of the apparently permanent stabilisation of government, some British-owned newspapers began to blame the government in no uncertain terms for its interference in economic matters, calling on it to relinquish its monopolies and allow a system of free trade. This criticism arose out again of both a liberal philosophy of trade and also repeated anxiety over the interests of the foreign merchants.
In the end of the 1870's the papers were fundamentally agreed in their attitude towards the demands for progressive institutions voiced by the opposition to the Japanese government. All the papers were in favour of a very gradual movement in the direction of a more progressive administration. They were still not ready to grant political rights to all Japanese citizens, for example, as the nation as a whole was not regarded as mature enough for such a radical change. One may detect behind these demands for a gradual change the fear of revolution, socialism, communism and democracy typical of the conservatism of that period, in other words a fear of ”losing everything of value and beauty”.
In spite of the fact that this analysis was not focused directly on the question of the influence that the papers may have had on the government's modernisation programme, the fact that it was attempting to create the image of a civilised nation in western eyes in order to justify suspension of the exterritorial rights leads us to conclude that the comments put forward by these local western sources must have had some effect on government policy. The papers themselves had made a conscious attempt to influence the course of events, and some newspapers also believed that they had done so. On the other hand, their very sharply worded criticism undoubtedly aroused a response in terms of increased nationalist feelings and contributed to the wave of anti-westernism that came to the surface in the 1880's and culminated in the long run in the events of the Second World War.
The publications that looked favourably on Japanese government policy did much for their own part to encourage the government to continue along the lines it had charted for itself, although this was not enough to soften the reaction caused by the more critical views as far as general attitude was concerned.
The Tokio Times left as its final testament upon closing down in 1880, as it were, an appeal to the western powers for greater understanding and respect fot the peoples of the east in their attempts to develop living conditions on their own lines:
”We only demand that consideration should be bestowed, truly and honestly, upon the march of events in the far east: that the aspirations of its peoples and rulers, their efforts in the present and hopes for the future should be regarded and observed: that these nations should be preserved from the indifference which is even worse that inimical contemt, or unconcealed hostility. The opinion of the world will then, more and more, form and assert itself rightfully on the subject of this and other growing empires, its neighbors and possible rivals in prosperity and progress in times to come. Each one has its part, and no inconsiderable one, assigned. Each can be materially aided to perform it by the sympathy and moral support of western powers in its attempts to attain real independence, and to secure the lasting advantage of its people.”
This was one demonstration of the fact that, even though the Tokio Times had frequently adopted an American viewpoint in its writing, it had nevertheless understood the difficulties that arise from the confrontation between two cultures, especially when one of those involved is a western culture convinced of its own incontrovertible superiority, as represented very well by the British-owned newspapers. In many cases, in fact, the situation was such that the value of the local culture was readily acknowledged provided that there was no question of compromising upon western interests.
Newspapers and Magazines:
- The Far East 1870-1877
- The Japan Daily Herald 1874-1875, 1877-1881
- The Japan Gazette 1874-1881
- Japan Punch 1870-1881
- The Japan Weekly Mail 1872-1881
- The Nagasaki Express 1872
- The Tokei Journal 1874-1875
- The Tokio Times 1877-1880.
1) See Olavi K. Fält, The Clash of Interests. The transformation of Japan in 1861-1881 in the eyes of the local Anglo-Saxon press. Studia Historica Septentrionalia 18. Jyväskylä 1990.
2) See Looking at the Other. Historical study of images in theory and practise. Kari Alenius, Olavi K. Fält & Seija Jalagin (Eds.). Acta Universitatis Ouluensis B Humaniora 42. Oulu University Press. Oulu 2002. (Electronic format URL:http://herkules.oulu.fi/isbn9514266331/)
Olavi K. Fält
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Religion as News
Religion as Review
MA Simo Korkee, Helsinki University, Comparative Religion, firstname.lastname@example.org
As I have no background in media studies, I’m not in a position to evaluate or criticize news as news. I will approach our theme – religion in media – from comparative religion point of view. I’m asking myself – and you – are news really an adequate format for covering religion. Of course I’m not only asking. My proposal is that religion should also be reviewed in reviews not completely different from art reviews or literary reviews. This proposal is based on the idea that religion can be seen as an art of living, art of shaping your experience of the world, which is in line with what classical romantically oriented scholars of religion used to think. I’m thinking of such people as for instance Friedrich Schleiermacher, Rudolf Otto, Mircea Eliade, Hjalmar Sundén and William James. Despite my respect to these scholars it is perhaps good to confess that my own approach to religion is closer to constructivism than romanticism. I don’t put so much emphasis on religious experiences. To me religion is goal-directed action where you try to leave behind what you consider ungenuine and you try to reach what you consider genuine. Different traditions draw the line between genuine and ungenuine, sacred and profane differently, but all religions from primitive magic to communism offer people a chance to go over the border into authentic life. To understand a religion is to understand what kind of authencity it is offering to religious consumers, if you want to think in the fashionable terms of rational choice theory.
Looking at news about religion from comparative religion point of view you can not help feeling certain sense of disappointment. The disappointment is not due to mistaken facts or disinformation. If you don’t demand perfection, you are bound to realise that media is often delightfully accurate. Uneasiness is born because of two reasons. News tend to tell us about doctrine, organisation and history which we could call the static side of religion. Of course that is good, but what we are usually missing is the dynamic side, the way of life. How is that religion practiced? What do they consider authentic and what unauthentic? How do they try to become authentic? The other reason that causes anxiety is that reported facts seldom form a meaningful whole. The reader, listener or viewer knows but does not understand. To be realistic, it is obvious that it is not possible to express the whole of any religion in a few lines. News are bound, perhaps even meant to be superficial and it would be irrational to want them to be deep. But leaving the reader, listener or viewer with an array or disarray of accurate facts would be irresponsible. The best possible solution I can see is to support the news section with reviews on religion.
The media has seen that solution too. Sometimes media does try to gather the facts together and make a reasonable whole out of them. While doing this they are entering into a minefield. There is no one legitimate or right way of forming a picture of a religion. What you do depends on whom you want to cater for or how do you want your readers, listeners or viewers to think. Let us take a hypothetical example from another field of life. Let us suppose that Vodafone ltd has just released a quarterly report. Investors who are thinking of selling, holding or buying Vodafone shares want to know the economical facts and their economical meaning. So do Vodafone partners and employees as well as Vodafone competitors. They want to hear which way Vodafone, the whole telecom market, and even the whole world economy is going. Therefore media typically offers economical facts and economical commentaries. Sometimes the more ”enlightened” media wants to make a picture of Vodafone or the recent trends in economy from a social or political point of view. There is no problem with that. Some media followers probably want to hear about that too.
When we get to forming pictures of religions, media usually operates in a completely different way. The religious investor who is thinking of selling, holding or buying a stake in a religious group usually does not get the relevant facts of the crucial dynamic side of the religion in case. On top of that the religious investor doesn’t get a commentary relevant to his interests. Nor do the partners, employees or competitors of a religious group get much of what they ask for. The interests of religious people are largely unknown or ignored in media. When media strives to form a whole of religious facts, they tend to form it from a social or political point of view. For politically inclined people this is nice, but for religious consumers and producers such reports make little sense. Imagine economical news being commented from a social or political point of view only.
Of course media people have the right to cover religion from whichever perspective they want. If they want to serve politically inclined people and not religiously inclined people, it’s a choice. I just wouldn’t recommend that choice. If social or political perspective is the only perspective for religious matters media ends up giving a rather strange picture of religion. Religions are phenomena that have powerful influence on people but nobody has anything to do with them personally. The social approach just doesn’t make religion understandable unless it is supported by a personal or should we say existential approach.
If we believe in free market and rational choice, we might like to think that in the course of time competition will force all big nationwide papers and channels to cater for all kinds of audiences, including religious audiences. To anticipate that I will use the rest of my paper in an attempt to figure out how this might be done. Since I can not study the future, what I say is free speculation. Much of it has been inspired by hermeneutics or the art of understanding, especially analytical hermeneutics.
Reviewing a religion can only be based on understanding a religion. Religions consist of beliefs, rituals, organisations and lifestyles. These pieces of religion usually form a meaningful whole in which the meaning of each part is determined by its relations to the other parts. When you begin to understand these connections you begin to understand the religion you are studying. However, knowing the internal connections of a religious system is not enough. If we consider Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language as a trustworthy description of language and culture, we probably like to think that every religion is built around some kind of practice and intention. Then we can not say that we understand a religion if we can not see the purpose of it. We have to see how different pieces of religion are connected to the practice that lies at the bottom of it all. Then we begin to understand.
But we only begin to understand. At some point you are bound to realize that religious systems are not perfect. There are hazy areas in these systems. The relations between parts are not always defined clearly. Sometimes there are missing parts, gaps that beg filling, implications that are not considered, questions that are not answered. And what is the worst, there are tensions and even conflicts between parts of the whole. When these problems appear, we have to be very careful. There is always the danger that we try to make an incoherent system more coherent than it really is.
When we have understood a religious system in its coherence and incoherence and we have understood the system in relation to its aim and underlying practice we have only understood the official religion. The official religion is nobody’s religion. It becomes somebody’s religion when somebody integrates it into his or her personality, when somebody adopts that project that lies at the core of a religion; when somebody adopts the means to reach that goal, the beliefs, rituals and lifestyles; when somebody joins the organisation that has grown around the project. When that happens religion goes through a transformation. The pieces of the official system are connected with non-religious pieces of our convert’s or believer’s personality. This means two different things. First, the meanings of the non-religious beliefs, wants, needs, plans, deeds etc are now partly determined from their connections with the pieces of the religious system. To speak clearly: you begin to see and feel the meaning of your life from the system’s point of view. But this is not all. There is another change too. Also the pieces of official religion receive a new meaning from their connections with the non-religious parts of our somebody’s personality. Personal religion is not the same thing as official religion. Everybody makes his or her personal version of the official religion. In order to understand personal religion you have to know the person and you have to understand the official religion. It’s a hard game.
Let us return to media. As I implicated before, reviews on religion should pass reviewer’s understanding to the readers, listeners or viewers. What kind of packages of understanding we should try to give? At this point you would probably like to say that everybody does not want the same thing. We should offer different kinds of reviews for different audiences. Let’s do it. I have considered three kinds of audiences here. 1) The civilized people who want to understand cultures and historical changes. 2) The common people who want to understand other people. 3) The religious customers who want information about religious products.
First we could think of reviews for civilized academical audiences if that is not a contradiction in terms. Reviews for this kind of people might remind us of the German author Herman Hesse and his novel Glass bead game (Das Glasperlenspiel auf deutsch). In that novel Hesse describes a society whose life revolves around a game of abstract beauty, a sort of visual music. Reviews of religions could be like reviews of masterpieces of glass bead game. Like all theories, religious belief systems are pieces of conceptual art. Their beauty is partly in the arrangements. We have all heard people talking about beauty of a theory. Such beauty should be shown in reviews on religion. But beauty is not only in the products. Making conceptual systems is art too. Creating or what is more common reshaping religious belief systems is definately conceptual art. I believe we have all followed how beautifully somebody solves a theoretical problem and creates a new arrangement of thoughts without destroying the old completely – or by destroying the old completely. The same can be seen in the history of religions and should be shown in reviews. When we review religion for civilised audience it is reasonable to spend some time describing the conceptual art of a theologian, a rabbi, a guru or a sheikh. Where does he start from and what does he end up with? What problems does he solve and what problems does he create? What perspectives does he open for us and what perspectives does he close from our sight?
While we are describing the conceptual adventures and products of religious artists we have to keep in mind that unlike Hesse’s glass bead game religious systems are not conceptual art for art’s sake. Religious systems are not floating in the air. Religious systems define, clarify and argue for existing or ideal practices. Religious systems are ways of worldmaking if you like philosopher Nelson Goodman’s terminology. Religious systems tell us how we could undestand man’s place in the world and human nature and what we could and should do with it. It is exactly these practical implications that make religious systems meaningful, understandable and experientally relevant for us. In reviews we should not only tell about the artist and the world he has created and how he has created it, we have to pay special attention to what is it like to live in that world for it is meant to be lived in. A review of a particular piece of glassbead game should go on to describe the feelings that the arrangement or the world evokes in the reviewer. Of course those feelings are personal but a good reviewer does not get too personal. The reviewer should concentrate on those feelings he thinks his readers would share. To know what feelings are common the reviewer has to know a lot about psychology, his own culture and himself too. Even that is not enough. The reviewer should be able to point out why those changes that say a guru makes into Hindu beliefs, rituals and lifestyles cause that particular change in experiencing life. Naturally enough this demands that the reviewer is aware of the way of experiencing that belongs to those beliefs, rituals and lifestyles that were dominant in Hindu society before the guru in question.
As you can see, reviewing religion puts heavy demands on the reviewer. Not only should she have vast knowledge and understanding on the religion she reviews but she should also undertand psychology and have certain personal characteristics. She should be able to enjoy and appreciate religion in many forms. A religious reviewer or critic that can’t get excited about religions is like an art critic that can’t get excited about art or an art critic that enjoys only one type of art. Despite her religiousness the religious critic should not be a religious partisan. She should be able to see for example Christian Reformation from all sides and appreciate them all. I think despite her noticable impartiality she should nevertheless be able to discern the difference between coherent, beautiful, world expanding, prospects opening and happiness provoking religion and religion that is not so high class and evaluate religions according to her conscious and explicitly expressed criteria. You might want to disagree with me here.
When you are writing to common people you probably want to leave cultural comparisons and historical changes away and concentrate on one religion, one system, one guru at a time. You also want to be more concrete in pointing out the connections between religious systems and the way people experience and lead their lives. That is perfectly allright. We can have reviews of religion that have a a lot to share with all kinds of human interest stories. All you need is a religious person, a key informat who can analyze and understand himself, someone who can speak about his thoughts, intentions, values and feelings. This is where the methodological traditions of cultural anthropology and methods of modern media meet in touching agreement. I suppose personifying is the way you sell all kinds of information today. Despite the modernity and commercial soundness of this kind of reviews on religion, they are sound also from the point of view of comparative religion. Religions are dead systems unless somebody makes them alive in himself, in his personal religion. If you concentrate on personal living religion, you are not making a mistake. You just have to remember that everybody has his own personal version of official religion. You have to be careful not to generalize too much on the basis of personal religion. This trouble can be avoided by creating several religious portraits of people of the same religion. Also you have to be able to discern the effects of religion from the effects of culture in general.
Human interest stories about religious others can provide great reviews but we have to remember that people are not only interested in others. People are also interested in themselves. People want to know what they themselves could be like. People want to know what it would be like, if they were to become muslims, budhists etc. If you choose this approach for your review, you have to know your readers, viewers or listeners quite well. If you know them, you can estimate what kind of connections religious systems could have with their personalities and their culture. If you know your audience you can foresee the points where a religion would or would not fit them or speak or not speak to them. You can focus on those connecting or disconnecting points and elaborate on their possible consequences. You can also try to imagine what would come out if a typical reader, listener or viewer were to integrate a specific religion into her personality. How would it make jer experience life differently? What kind of feelings and thoughts would arise? What are the good and the problematic sides of such feelings and experiences? Of course you don’t have to rely on your imagination. You can probably find living examples for your readers. After Miran Lavric’s paper, we can see, that especially this kind of religious review could be seen as critical and impartial consumer information.
I cannot really summarize my ideas since I only had one idea here, the idea that religion can be seen as an art of worldmaking, art of constructing the way we experience ourselves and our lives. If we see religion that way, we would perhaps like to see religious reviews would show undestanding of the religious art and mediate the feeling or experience that is captured or constructed in different religious worlds. These reviews could be seen as forms of art reviews or cultural analysis or even consumer information. Reviews like this could complete the picture of religions we get from news. This could be healthy and reasonable for news often stress the political side of religion beyond the limits of reason.
- Bleicher, Josef. 1980. Contemporary Hermeneutics. Hermeneutics as Method, Philosophy and Critique. London: Routledge.
- Eliade, Mircea. 1959. The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion. Trsl. W.R. Trask. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World. --- . 1969. The Quest: History and Meaning in Religion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Goodman, Nelson. 1978. Ways of Worldmaking. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.
- Hesse, Herman. 1988. Lasihelmipeli. Trsl. K. Kaila. Helsinki: Kirjayhtymä.
- Iannaccone, Laurence. 1997. Rational Choice: Framework for the Scientific Study of Religion. In Rational Choice Theory and Religion. Summary and Assesment. Ed. Lawrence A. Young. New York: Routledge.
- James, William. 1961. TheVarieties of Religious Experience. London: Collins.
- Otto, Rudolf. 1987. Das Heilige. Über das Irrationale in der Idee des Göttlichen und sein Verhältnis zum Rationalen. München: C.H.Beck.
- Schleiermacher, Friedrich. 1920. Puheita uskonnosta sen sivistyneille halveksijoille. Trsl. A. Lähteenoja. Porvoo: WSOY.
- Sundén, Hjalmar. 1959. Religionen och rollerna. Ett psykologiskt studium av fromheten. Stockholm: Svenska diakonistyrelses bokförlag.
- Winch, Peter. 1970. The Idea of a Social Science and its Relation to Philosophy. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
- Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1953. Philosophical Investigations. Trsl. G.E.M. Anscombe. New York: MacMillan.
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Religion and Technology
Debating Fatwas in the Cyberspace: the Construction of Islamic Authority in Four Francophone Muslims Internet Forums
as a PhD candidate at the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), in Paris, I am researching Muslim debates on Islamic normativity in Europe, debates which hinge on the perceived need to adapt shari'a to suit both European laws and European social norms. This is also a debate on who has the right to interpret Islamic law today – only religious scholars or all Muslim individuals too. I am interested in studying these debates in real places as well as in virtual locations.
In this presentation I will focus on four French websites that provide Internet Forums for Muslims to discuss and debate with varying degrees of freedom and self-restraint. My interest lies in the normative formulations that these Internet forums give rise to. More specifically, I will look at the production and consumption of fatwas, authoritative rulings issued by qualified Islamic scholars called muftis in answer to questions put forward by Muslim believers. When in doubt, Muslims should ask "those who know". The fatwa issued by the scholar is, unlike the judgement of the qadi, non-binding, but the individual petitioner is well-advised to follow it. The relationship between the two is one of authority: the mufti speaks in the name of God.
The Internet is the subject of much contemporary discussion among the ulema (including in the cyberspace itself). Some typical problems that are addressed relate to boundaries. In the process of connection to the virtual world, sometimes codes relating to Islamic rituals and practices have to be reformulated: are Islamic rules pertaining to the (physical) handling of religious texts valid in the cyberspace? Are economic transactions conducted over the Internet Islamically recognised? Can a man divorce his wife through an e-mail? In what ways may the inter-sexual encounters provided by the cyberspace be regulated, if any?
Generally speaking however, the development of the cyberspace in itself is a development highly welcome by Islamic scholars, who see in it an opportunity to further disseminate their opinions. It is my contention that the Internet is not only relaying scholarly views; the Islamic web is also increasingly acting as an alternative to muftis and blurring the boundaries between scholars and non-scholars. Some academic studies have been devoted to the undermining effects of cyber muftis on traditional religious authority (Anderson 1999; Bunt 2000). It has been argued that in order to issue a fatwa on the Internet – and thus to posit oneself as a religious authority – an attractive and effective website is more important than formal religious training or a recognised chain of transmission of knowledge, thus displacing the boundaries of legitimate interpretation. These observers point to the lack of visibility in the cyberspace of the established centres of Islamic scholarship, from Al-Azhar to the Islamic Fiqh Academy in Jeddah , and contrast this with the success of previously-unknown and often anonymous cyber muftis. Personally I believe the impact of cyber muftis is overestimated, for while the Internet may lead to the proliferation of official and unofficial muftis, and to a plurality of fatwas, this is a constant of Islamic history ancient and modern, and it does not unsettle the power relationship between the questioner and the mufti: in the cyberspace like in the real world, the process reproduces the distinction between the scholar and the non-scholarly, and it does not allow for much interactivity between the two. More upsetting and potentially undermining, I argue, are the discussions on Muslim Internet forums.
The Internet forums discussed below are examples of what Anderson calls "intermediate contexts" created by new media (Anderson 1999). They participate in the construction of "imagined selves and imagined worlds" (Appadurai 1996) and provide Muslims in France with a virtual oumma (Roy 2002). The four forums belong to portals which provide services ranging from current news to matrimonial ads. For more than a year I have studying the discussions in these sites that range from the institutional (UOIF-online) and the ideological (Soubhannallah.com) to its opposite, the anti-institutional (oumma.com). They are forums, and as such their aim is to allow users to discuss and exchange views, which may or may not include fatwas. In all the four sites, the concern with normativity is evident from the title of many discussions: "is this halal or haram?"; "what does Islam say about this?", or even "what do you think about this fatwa?". Neither of the forums studied below render real life muftis irrelevant. Posting a question in a forum may well be the first as well as the last stage in a longer normative search whereby several (real and cyber) muftis will be consulted and their answers compared. Fatwas from a whole range of authorities are often invoked. But fatwas are not only posted; they are also debated, replaced, criticised, and sometimes even ignored. There are however wide differences between sites – which seems to hint that new formulations of religious authority are not inevitable, even in the cyberspace. I am interested in exploring these differences, and their respective construction of Islamic authority, by a combination of users' self-restraint and webmaster intervention.
boasts, not without grounds, of being "the reference of Francophone Islam". Its motto is "Islam in all freedom". Founded in 1999 by a group of social scientists in their thirties, oumma.com wanted to create a space of reflection for Muslims. According to Said Branine, chief editor of oumma.com is not "a conveyor of a message, but a conveyor of debate" . Because of its non-ideological affiliation, oumma.com has the widest audience across the Muslim spectrum, from different and often incompatible tendencies. This diversity means that discussions are always lively, in particular since the moderators do not tend to intervene. The participants are often more interested in normative questions than the administrators of the site. Muslims come to the forums looking for a home feeling, a community, and sometimes for "sincere advice", "an answer to a question" . But at oumma.com there are no recognised authorities to which the moderators may direct petitioners. Muslims looking for Islamic scholars and scholarly answers will find instead mostly self-taught Muslim individuals ready to give their own personal advice, thus effectively replacing muftis. These individuals sometimes relay known views of scholars they recognise as authorities – Qaradawi being, according to Branine, one of the most oft-cited; but most often they trust their own personal opinions. This is not without consequences. In at least some instances, users of oumma.com have accepted in the name of French culture issues strictly forbidden by ulema . To back them up, users may invoke fatwas from a whole range of (this time real) Islamic scholars. But despite their frequent attempts to depict a fatwa as decisive, and its producer as an authority, fatwas here are hardly ever the last word on any discussion. [Branine regrets that discussions take place "à coup de fatwas", rather than through arguments, but he may be underestimating the individualisation tendencies at work in the user's selection of the mufti.] Since the policy of the moderators is to remain silent on these issues, users are starting to elaborate deontologies to deal with conflicting rulings. Thus, according to one user, "the rule, when one comes across a fatwa, is to have a critical mind…not like one can read here [at oumma.com] often, refuting a fatwa because it doesn't please, but rather to ask oneself the question of its significance and its degree of veracity and conformity with the [Prophetic] sunna…Not only with our understanding, but after doing the necessary research (Coran, tafsir, other opinions, etc.) This was also a reminder against denigrating a scholar or a fatwa, just because what is said does not suit us" [My translation] . In other sites, oumma.com is notorious for its irreverence, for being a place where everybody issues one's own fatwa, where the views of real scholars are paid no attention to.
is an institutional site, linked to a specific organisation: the Union des organisations islamiques de France (UOIF), founded in 1983, is ideologically the French "shadow" the Muslim Brotherhood. In France, this ideological strand is usually depicted as "l'islam fondamentaliste" or "l'islam intégriste", in opposition to the "enlightened" and modern forms of Islam represented by figures such as Soheib Bencheikh or, more broadly, the Mosquée de Paris. Marginalised and feared in public debates and public opinion, the UOIF are nevertheless considered moderate by Muslims and they are popular at the grassroots level, as their recent success at the elections to the Islamic Council of France have proved. Among Muslims, their motto is "l'islam du juste milieu", "citoyen" and "authentique". The website [which had existed for many years] became in 2002 a full-fledged Islamic portal created to disseminate this message, and it is part of the organisation's strategy of bringing together Muslims.
In the French Islamic landscape, UOIF-online embodies orthodoxy. Its political decisions are often portrayed by the leadership as the result of guidance from scholars in the form of fatwas. Thus, naturally, UOIF-online is much more conscious of the need to follow the religious scholars than, say, oumma.com. The forums are more closely monitored, with a great number of users following the official line of the organisation. The moderators are numerous, and they actively participate in the discussions, sometimes even give out real telephone numbers of the UOIF's real fatwa commission for those interested in asking questions. The website also offers the possibility to send questions via e-mail to muftis. This forum thus acts not so much as an alternative to muftis, but as a relay to their views.
is a conventional website promoting a vision of Islam close to that of the Union des organisations islamiques de France (UOIF). The site was created by Tunisian youngsters based in France with (informal) links to the Nahda movement. A quick look at its portal reveals its typical broad Ikhwan concerns: Palestine, the hijab, Qaradawi and now the Egyptian TV evangelist Amr Khaled. The site attracts mainly Muslim youth, explaining the emphasis given to inter-generational conflicts in the discussions. Islamiya's forums are the second most popular in France, behind oumma.com. From December 2001 until May 2003 the webmaster announced, in the space dedicated to "questions and answers", that the queries will be answered by Sheikh Ahmad Jaballah, member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research". Jaballah, a leader of the UOIF, was supposed to attract Muslims, but he did not have the time to participate in the debates. Many cyber-users noticed his absence and complained, according to Islamiya. But the debates continued. Since May 2003, Islamiya.info has replaced Jaballah with an independent Islamic scholar, Tahar Mahdi, who also gives rulings over the telephone six days a week at Allo Fatwa. Mahdi participates, albeit irregularly, in the questions and answers discussions in Islamiya's forums. To differentiate Mahdi's contribution, his name has been formatted to include a picture of him (taken from a mobile phone) with an edited image of the Mecca in the background, to symbolise piety. But the mufti's written statements appear as normal hyper-text, just like the petitioner's question or any other contribution. Here the distinction between scholars and non-scholars is clearly lost; both the form (plain text that does not differentiate between a fatwa and a personal comment) and the content (Islamic normative claims made by scholars and Internet users alike) are blurring the boundaries, and Mahdi has to compete with knowledge and wisdom with the other Muslims. One could say, following Mandaville, that "the hybrid discursive spaces of the Muslim Internet [are giving] rise, even inadvertently, to new formulations and critical perspectives on Islam, religious knowledge and community".
– "the belief and way of the salaf us-salih" - is, as the motto indicates, one of the official sites of the Salafism in France. Created by a young entrepreneur, this site dates from 2002; it was undergoing restructuration in spring 2003. The discussion subjects themselves are Salafi: the most popular one in June 2003 was "who is your favourite [Koranic] recitor?". Participants typically arrive at the site after a "spiritual path" that has distanced them from other forms of Islam towards Salafism. The moderator here exerts a strict control over the forums: he asks participants to "always cite the dalils [evidence] sources based on the Koran and the sunnah" and announces, in the chart of the forum, that he reserves himself "the right to delete everything which does not correspond to the Koran or the Sunnah". Like in the other websites, there is a forum dedicated to questions and answers, which are in fact two different forums. In Soubhannallah.com, the questions are "transmitted to the people of science", and the forums are closed once the question is asked so that "no person can answer it without science". Once the answer is obtained from a recognised authorised, the moderator posts the answer, and again closes the forum. This renders discussions somewhat less interesting, and the moderator asks users for their understanding, since "there are several [other] forums on the net following the opposite principle where each one can issue one's own fatwa". Since answering questions is considered a "great responsibility", it cannot be left at hands of common people lest they "mislead" others. Soubhannallah.com also assumes its users are Arabic-speakers and provides telephone numbers for ten scholars (all based in Saudi Arabia).
There is another section in Soubhannallah.com dedicated to fatwas, revealingly in a section called "Dogma": users are encouraged to post fatwas, and there is, at least theoretically, a possibility to post comments. The fatwas are issued by the site's recognised authorities: Ibn Baz, Ibn Uthaymeen. These include a prohibition of listening to songs, a reprehension of wearing high-heels for women (as this may be harmful to their health). However, I have counted that out of 32 fatwas posted since September 2002, only one had comments: this was a fatwa by Ibn Baz about the possibility of listening to the Koran while doing housework, and the comments came from three women welcoming his positive answer.
New media tend to displace the traditional hierarchy of interpreters, and in the case of Islam, the cyberspace may be displacing religious authority away from the ulema towards the sacred Texts. But there is no inevitability here. Muslims are able not only to reproduce sectarian / ideological divisions in the cyberspace, but also to counter the egalitarian tendencies of the original founders of the Internet. The variations from one Muslim Internet Forum to another point to the distinct possibilities in the cyber construction of Islamic authority, from democratisation at www.oumma.com to authoritarianism at www.soubhannallah.com, with intermediate spaces where the use of plain text blurs the frontiers. Through the use of moderators' intervention and users' self-restraint, Muslim Internet forums can convey highly distinctive feelings of belonging to virtual communities.
Alexandre Caeiro, EHESS, email@example.com
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The Debate Around Reproductive Technologies:
By Ollivier Dyens
The Birth of a Godless Nature.
Concordia University, Montreal, Canada
Why do we believe that technology encroaches on spirituality? Why do we feel that the spiritual and the technological are incompatible? Why do we see them as separated by oceans of perceptions and understanding, when both offer the universal, when both treat the world as well-understood series of phenomena, when both deem their own representation as all encompassing?
Spirituality dwells in the sensitive, technology in the measurable.
Within the realm of the sensitive, man feels comfortable, for within this world, pain, solitude, joy and strength instill his existence with meaning. Within the realm of the sensitive, man’s difficult life is filled with purpose, one that either reflects Nature’s or God’s plan. Within the realm of the sensitive, man’s every detail, action and reaction (even the most horrible) exists, ultimately, to fulfill the bringing forth of love. There is reason in the universe, the realm of the sensitive tells us. Nothing exists just for the sake of it.
But that’s not what the realm of the measurable tells us. Within that realm, living beings are the product of replicators, while intelligence and consciousness are the consequence of evolution, and pain, fear and melancholia are nothing but survival mechanisms. Within that realm, living beings are rare and beautiful but purposeless dynamics.
This is why we condemn the surprising, sometimes outlandish use of technology for reproductive intent. When technologies are used to either enable or manipulate birth, life itself becomes a measurable, understandable and ultimately replicable phenomenon, one whose purpose lies outside the realm of the sensitive. Reproductive technologies compel us to accept life as just a massive chemical and physical dynamic. Life is complex, reproductive technologies tell us, but it is not strange in the spiritual sense. Nor is it saturated with any sensitive purpose. With reproductive technologies, life becomes a scientific endeavor, one that can be tested, manipulated and, ultimately, manufactured.
Is life nothing more than a great geophysical, evolutionary and chemical system? Or is life imbued with spiritual and sentient purpose? With each genetic breakthrough, with each cloned animal, with each birth of human septuplets, the answer tends towards the former.
And this, above almost everything else, is what we fear.
But are what the roots of this paradigm shift?
A few years ago French scientist François Jacob coined the term “biological reality.” What is biological reality? Simply put, it is the slice of reality that each being perceives according to its shape and biological structure. A fly sees the world differently than we do; so does a dog, a dolphin or a mole. Just like light, reality is essentially a spectrum. And as is the case with light, each species only sees a sliver of that spectrum. Absolutes, then, are not universally based, but are a consequence of the particular sliver of reality that we perceive. We clearly distinguish the living from the non-living for example, or the intelligent from the non-intelligent, the born from the dying because our biological reality provides us with distinct criteria to define these phenomena. Criteria which are specific to our sliver of biological reality.
You and I, for example, can agree on fundamental notions of life, death and intelligence because, for all practical means, we share the same body (i.e. biological reality). We are so similar to one another physiologically that we can easily agree on perceptions of reality. From these common perceptions, absolutes and universals are built. Take this table for example. On our level of reality, you and I can only agree with the fact that we are alive while this table is not. Take ourselves as another example. On our level of reality, you and I can only agree with the fact that each of us here is an intelligent, conscious and autonomous being.
But with the rise of what I call “technological reality,” the boundaries between absolutes and the foundations out of which these absolutes spring forth have proven to be less stable and unyielding than we first presumed. What is technological reality? It is the perceiving of reality by both man and machines. Simply put, technological reality is the emergence of new senses. Above and beyond the senses of touch, hearing, tasting, seeing are now senses created by man and machine together. Technological reality is what enables us to become aware of, to perceive and to sense other layers and silvers of reality (microscopic, fractal, cosmological, genetic, etc). To come back to my example, if the distinction between myself and the table is clear on our biological level of reality, it becomes quite muddled on an atomic level of reality (to which we now have access, thanks to technological reality). Actually, as you all know, there is essentially no difference between myself and the table on an atomic scale of reality.
Technological reality challenges the very foundations of what we hold sacred: life, consciousness, intelligence and purpose. Through the lens of technological reality, the world is redefined as a series of mechanisms and dynamics embedded into one another. Bacteria become cells, cells become complex organisms, complex organisms become ecosystems, ecosystems become planets and so on. And within this embeddedness of well-structured mechanisms, the foundations upon which we have erected our world become almost impossible to find. In fact, because of technological reality, simple definitions of life, intelligence, consciousness and individuality have essentially become acts of faith. We believe in our individuality because we know that we are individual and unique. We believe in consciousness because we know that we are conscious. The way some of us know that God exists, that there is a purpose to life, that there is a design to the cosmos. But this is, essentially, an act of faith. Technological reality has repeatedly shown us that there are no clear distinctions, no clear boundaries, no clear individuality, no clear purpose. Essentially, you and I are conventions.
The debate around abortion is an interesting example of this problem. No one, on either side of the debate, intends to kill a living being. The problem, of course, is to determine when such a being does emerge. Through the biological reality, we could all agree of some general criteria: the beating of the fetus’ heart, his movement, or simply his coming out of his mother’s womb. But with technological reality, distinction between stages of development becomes fractal, that is each minute observation opens up to another one where the distinction between being and non-being becomes impossible to make (at what point does life emerge? When egg and sperm meet? After the first few cellular divisions? After one week, four, twelve? When brain activity can be recorded?). The problem with abortion is the same as the one technological reality forces us to confront: the boundary between being and not being is becoming a convention.
Are you skeptical? Let me come back to my example: you and I both think of ourselves as intelligent, conscious and autonomous beings. Truly, one can only agree with this proposition. But only on a biological reality level. Because on a technological reality one, you and I would be hard pressed to point to what is specifically intelligent, conscious or autonomous in an individual human being. Is it Neurons? Dendrites? Electrical impulses? Is it our blood? Our cells (but aren’t cells an assembly of bacteria as Lynn Margulis would suggest?) How does intelligence emerge? How is consciousness created? Where does intelligence and consciousness start or end? How unique and autonomous are we? Aren’t we colonies of bacteria, a loose fitting form of different living beings? If we, on the human (biological) scale, are autonomous, intelligent and conscious beings, we, on the microscopic (technological) scale, are nothing more than a Petri dish full of microbes, a series of chemical reactions, a mere blend of genes. In the mirror of the technological reality, we see ourselves as heap of removable parts, as clusters of redundant devices, as reptilian fragments of a lingering past. According to the technological reality, we are but a fragile and temporary consequence of the interaction between environment, living beings and chemical reactions.
Through technological reality, birth, life and death become spatial and temporal phenomena overflowing the individual body and spilling out into the cycle of atoms, genes, viruses and DNA (as human beings, we exist for a particular period of time, within a given space. As colonies of bacteria, we are extended over centuries and spread beyond oceans and continents.) We cannot define ourselves as unique or autonomous anymore (how can we even pretend to be so, when hundreds of millions of beings live within us?) We are temporary dynamics, easily duplicated. We think we are human. We are mere devices.
And then, as we must face this profound revolution in our understanding of the world, the dream (or nightmare!) of reproductive technologies suddenly becomes reality. And while technological reality intellectually blurs the foundations of life, reproductive technologies physically challenge them.
And that is why, the focal point of our unease with RTs is essentially meta-physical in nature. Sure, many scientific, political and sociological arguments against RTs, and especially cloning, are brought forward, some truly challenging. But that’s not where the real source of anxiety lies.
For scientifically speaking, RTs work fairly well and have already shown to be of great use.
Evolutionarily speaking, RTs do not inexorably cause genetic depletion (genetic depletion will occur only if we clone the cloned for example.) In fact, though such a scenario is foreseeable in the agricultural industry, it is unlikely in the case of human beings. Recent history has repeatedly shown that regardless of techniques available, the great majority of couples use technologically assisted reproduction only as a last resort.
Politically speaking, RTs are not an inevitable trigger for social failure. We all yearn for healthy, intelligent and beautiful children. We’ve always yearned for that. Since time immemorial. And remember that all of us already practice genetic filtering by selecting the best possible mate. Might all children one day become blond, blue eyed, tall and white, as prophets of doom like to remind us? Possibly. But human beings are also attracted by differences. When the white, blue eyed, blond kid will be the norm, then his opposite will become attractive. Do not forget either that what we deem “beautiful” is, biologically speaking, healthiness and immunity, criteria which have nothing to do with the color of one’s skin. The perfection we might aim at with RTs is one of health. The very health we so anxiously wish for our children today, the same one we constantly strive towards by controlling what we (and they) eat, by exercising, by avoiding unhealthy behavior, by promoting education.
Will RTs breed genetic classes? Between rich and poor? Probably. But every human endeavor can be divided along those lines: education, health, politics, even art. Is that a good thing? No. Should that stop us from pushing forward with RTs? No.
Will RTs allow the creation of a series of brain-washed soldiers? Any military officer knows that a well-organized propaganda campaign is just as effective and less costly.
Will RTs initiate a “commodification” of nature? We have commodified nature since our brains gave us the tools to do so, since we first cultivated the soil, domesticated animals, killed to eat and clothe ourselves. The essence of intelligence is to transform, to manipulate and to mould nature according to its needs. The intelligent being commodifies by definition.
So what are we worried about?
While technological reality suggests the frightening possibility of a godless nature, reproductive technologies actually prove it. With RTs, a godless, purposeless planet becomes a reality.
RTs force us to confront not only the uncertainty of our essence but also its secular nature. In fact, RTs dictate the overthrowing of our faith. How is God all powerful and all knowing if His miracle of life is an easily reproduced mechanism? How is He incomparable if machines and technologies alike can create and recreate His most overwhelming achievement (life)? How can we be God’s creatures if a well-equipped laboratory can father us on the chain? Are we not -- God, us, and all of creation -- trite mechanisms?
In fact, RTs do not threaten the balance of life but our perception of its sacred nature. While technological reality showed us how unfocused the boundaries of life are, while technological reality challenged the very notion of individual, sacred life, RTs actually produced life in laboratory, it actually created life outside of what we had deemed our boundaries (by cloning, by artificially inseminating, by tweaking, etc.). Through RTs, our structure of thoughts, of beliefs, our metaphysic are being challenged, turned upside down not only intellectually but also physically.
RTs have shown us that the paradigm shift of the technological reality is not an intellectual fantasy. It has truly become our new reality. One in which life needs to be redefined. One in which divine purpose must be reexamined. One in which notions of autonomy, individuality and consciousness must be redrawn.
The fascination, fear and anguish that RTs breed are nothing but a deep questioning of our construct of the world. RTs force us to tragically reassess what we are. We do not live in a hallowed world and life is not exceptional. We are but a mere series of evolutionary adaptations and chemical operations which do not need purpose or designer. Through both the technological reality and RTs we now face the possibility of life and death in an absolutely purposeless and lonely world…And this, above all else, is what we fear.
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Visual Truth and Reality
ACCUSED OF BLASPHEMY - CINEMA AND CENSORSHIP IN SENEGAL
Debate about Karmen in Senegal: Course of events
National cinema was on the front pages of the Senegalese press for several days in September 2001. A recent film Karmen (Joseph Gaï Ramaka, Senegal/France/Canada, 2001), a Senegalese adaptation from Prosper Merimée's work, was violently attacked by a group of Muslims. They protested against a scene in the film where a song of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba, the founder of Mouridism , was presented to commemorate the suicide of a homosexual prison guard. As a consequence the film was banned in the basis of "public order" and all the copies were confiscated. The event caused a lively debate about freedom of expression and the content and morals of national cinema in the Senegalese public sphere.
After the incident the authorities promised that the film would be reviewed by the Committee for Cinematic Control, which has an advisory role in the cases where films are suspected of containing material that might harm children or have other distasteful content. After the screening the authorities would decide if the film could be distributed in Senegal as such or if the suspicious scene had to be cut. The Committee consists of members of different parents' organisations, the Association of Senegalese filmmakers (CINESEAS) and governmental film authorities. The problem with the Committee was, however, that it had not been functioning for several years and none of the films screened in Senegal had been controlled during this time.
The authorities declared that the Committee would be reorganised as soon as possible but apparently this was not as easy as imagined. From September 2001 to September 2002 Senegalese newspapers reported several reasons why the committee could not be reorganised. First, the organisations concerned could not agree on who had sabotaged the functioning of the Committee and the Committee was missing members, then the president of the Committee or some other members had travelled abroad. When the Committee was finally reorganised there were no copies of Karmen in Senegal so that the film could not be screened. The confusion with the Committee for Cinematic Control makes one suspect that there were other reasons behind the delay in the official decision to ban or release the film. The case of Karmen and some other recent attempts to censor films and television programmes have provoked hot debates in the Senegalese parliament where principles of liberty of expression and democracy have been evoked.
The purpose of this paper is not to speculate about the reasons behind this special dispute but to compare the case of Karmen to some internationally well-known cases where cultural products have been a target of religious pressure groups and accused of blasphemy. Are there similarities between Karmen and the fatwa of The Satanic Verses or religious opposition of the films like The Last Temptation of Christ as suggest the authors of the Internet and press debates concerning Karmen in Senegal?
Karmen vs. two internationally well-known censorship cases
The best known cases of cinema censorship in Senegal date back to the 1970s, considered the golden age of Senegalese cinema. Typical for that period was that the censored films were made by the most famous Senegalese filmmakers and censorship occurred because of political reasons. Coming to the present day official censorship has calmed down. In 1980s and 1990s the film production was remarkably limited because of economic reasons and there was little need for active censorship. The production has, however, increased during the last years and the events around some films and television programmes now hint that the patterns of censorship would be changing. Karmen is the first symptom of this change. Officially it is not censored but the Ministry of the Interior decided to confiscate the film in the basis of security and public order after a group of Mourids had threatened to prevent all the coming screenings even by violence. The situation is reminiscent of direct activities of fundamentalist groups in North Africa and the efforts of American and European religious groups to ban certain films concerning Christianity. This kind of activity can be called unofficial censorship.
The analysis of the two web discussions and press material shows that cases of unofficial censorship are known in Senegal. A journalist of Moeurs reminds, for example: "some years ago, a film depicting homosexuals angels was banned because the authorities were afraid of troubles in Italy". Fatwa of Salman Rushdie has also been in a fresh memory of journalists because it did not take long the word fatwa came to be used in Senegalese papers when they reported the Mourid riot. The word fatwa or the name of Salman Rushdie was mentioned in eight articles and the case was occasionally referred to in some Internet messages, as well.
A fatwa of Mourids has prohibited the screening of Karmen Geï in the cinema Bel'Arte on Saturday. The Ministry has confirmed the decision to ban the screenings of Karmen in the whole country. (La Pointe 10.9.2001)
The Satanic Verses
The most significant effort to censor a work of art by a religious group is the fatwa declared by Ayatollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie and his Satanic Verses in February 1989. His efforts did not limit to the interdiction in Iran but he and his adherents wanted to ban the book wherever it was published. At first sight it might sound as an exaggeration to compare two cases whose geographical dimensions are so different from each others. Karmen was a local event known only inside the frontiers of Senegal - no matter how important it was there - while the fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeini is one of the rare cases when a cultural subject has made the lead item in the day's news all over the world. The consequences of the event led even to a diplomatic crisis between several EU countries and Iran, the riots against the book spread around the world and caused the death of over twenty people. As a result the book was banned in the countries with majority or plurality Muslim governments and in several countries with substantial Muslim minorities like South Africa, India and Thailand. Even in Japan the sale of the English-language edition was banned (Pipes 1990, 143).
Rushdie was accused of blasphemy in several chapters of The Satanic Verses. His most serious crime was that he questioned the central feature of the Islamic faith, the origin of the Koran as revelations made to Mohamed by God through the archangel Gabriel. Especially two chapters of The Satanic Verses (Mahound and Return to Jahilia) contain remarks that even moderate Muslims consider blasphemous. Protests against the novel started even before the official British publication on September 26 in 1988 in India in where Muslims learned about the coming novel from two magazines. The novel was predicted to "to trigger an avalanche of protests from the ramparts". (Madhu Jain 1988, cited in Pines 1990, 19) Two members of the Indian parliament succeeded in their efforts to make the book banned even before the decision-makers had time to read it. The action spread soon in the United Kingdom where Muslims started their efforts to get the book banned and Rushdie criminally prosecuted, both on the charge of blasphemy. Their efforts, however, went nowhere, for British laws of blasphemy apply only to Christianity, and even then are rarely applied. Several riots and burnings of the book were organised and the life of Rushdie began to be affected by death threats and other troubles caused by his opponents. (Pipes 1990, 19-23)
The violence against The Satanic Verses spread in Pakistan on February 12 in 1989 and continued for over a month. During this period there were several people killed and the protesters caused a lot of material damages. In fact, the Pakistani demonstrations were the most violent ones during the whole event. An interesting trait of these riots was that they were oriented towards the American Embassy but not a single time towards the British Embassy even if the novel had been published in the United Kingdom and Rushdie was living in London. Apparently this was due to the fact that the book was labelled as an intrigue of "the West trying to dictate Islam". (Radio Tehran 10.3.1989, cited in Pipes 1990, 129) In a Muslim world anti-Westernism has a tendency to turn into anti-Americanism and the United States represent much more the western political power than Britain which has lost its position as an imperial overlord. According to Pipes, Rushdie was seen by fundamentalist Muslims as "an inferior CIA agent" or a messenger of the United States, who did not write it on his own initiative. (Pipes 1990 24-26, 130)
The next day, February 13, Ajatollah Khomeini got informed about the events in Pakistan and dictated immediately the legal judgement (fatwa) against Rushdie and his publishers. Rushdie got the news about fatwa soon after it was broadcast in Iran. He appeared publicly the last time before he was transported in a hidden place February 14. On the 17th, President Khamene'i announced that Rushdie might be forgiven if he repented. Accordingly, the next day, Rushdie offered an apology, which concerned the effects of his writings but not the writings themselves. Since the apology proved inefficient the European Community elevated the controversy to a diplomatic incident and put Tehran on warning. They recalled their Heads of Mission in Tehran for consultations and to suspend exchanges of high-level official visits. The diplomatic crisis lasted only for one month but the critical situation of Rushdie did not start to relieve before the death of Ajatollah Khomeini in June 1989. (Pipes 1990, 26-36)
The case of Rushdie was well-known in Senegal. Senegalese government banned the book after the recommendation of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in mid-March 1989. The ban did not, however, mean there had been an overall acceptance of the fatwa or that people would not have been eager to read the novel. Some copies of the book reached the country from the United States and were photocopied many times over (Pipes 1990, 201-202). One of the Senegalese religious leaders, Ayatollah of Kaolack, Ahmed Khalifa Niasse, even condemned the edict, in part because Rushdie had not been properly tried, in part because he lived in the United Kingdom, a country not ruled by Muslims (Le Monde, 4.3.1989, cited in Pipes 1990, 93). The ban in Senegal was neither as complete as in some other countries since foreign magazines with extracts of the book were allowed (Pipes 1990, 144).
Last Temptation of Christ
The Last Temptation of Christ (Martin Scorsese, US 1988, hereafter Last Temptation) was another internationally well-known effort to try to censor a work of art, this time a film. Its propositions reached, though, never to those of The Satanic Verses. The opposition by Fundamentalist Christians and Catholics started in the United States already five years before the release of the film in 1988. (Lyons, 1997, 159) It proved true the statement of Boughedir that efforts of censorship do not limit to fundamental Islamists but also portrayals of the Bible and of Christ are as controversy for fundamentalist Christians. "It is symptomatic to notice that in France political attempts on the cinemas that screened Gilles Pontecorvo's La bataille d'Alger in the 60s have been replaced by religious ones. Now they are attempting on the theatres screening Jean-Luc Godard's Je vous salue Marie and Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ." (Boughedir 1995, 40-41).
The first draft of The Last Temptation in 1988 was secretly distributed to several American religious leaders. Their adherents organised a campaign of protest letters sent to Gulf & Western, the owner of the production company Paramount Pictures. The campaign raised fear both in Paramount and in the United Artists distribution chain and they decided to reject the project. Four years later Scorsese changed to the Creative Artists's Universal and got the film made. The production company had predicted the difficulties with religious groups and made an agreement, which guaranteed the groups a private pre-screening of the film in June 1988. Unfortunately Scorsese was late with the postproduction and could not finish the film until the scheduled day. This made the religious groups to loose their patience and to restart their letter-writing and telephoning campaigns. The campaign escalated on July 12, the same day when the unfinished print was screened for mainline religious leaders in New York. Without seeing the new film Evangelical religious leaders in Los Angeles condemned the coming film basing their arguments on the old 1983 manuscript and mobilised a great amount of Christian radio stations, pastors and activists against the film. One Evangelical leader even proposed to pay Universal Pictures back the money the company had invested in Last Temptation to get in exchange all existing prints of the film, which he intended to destroy. The offer was, however, rejected by the company. At the same time, many mainline Christians who had attended the pre-screening in New York had started to defend the film. (Lyons 1997, 159-165)
Tired to the protests Universal Pictures decided not to cancel the release of the film, but in the contrary, to do it six weeks earlier. This decision angered the opposition and they again heightened their efforts continuing to base their arguments on the old manuscript, which did not correspond with the finalised film. One week before the film opened, religious opponents seemed to gain censorious effects. One Californian chain of theatres and the United Artists chain with its 2000 screens across the country announced their refusal to show the film. Religious leaders and movements also gave the recommendations that people should not go to see the film. The day before the opening the opposition made the last effort organising a protest in front of Universal Studios in Los Angeles, which attracted about 25.000 demonstrators but the protest did not change the scheduled premiere. The film was released on August 12 in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Seattle, Minneapolis, Montreal and Toronto as planned and protesters met the premiere at nearly every theatre in all nine cities. During the weeks that followed, the number of protesters decreased but despite of this the protests proved their influence. When the film opened in 35 more cities, censorship was achieved in several towns and cities. (Lyons, 1997, 170-182) Blockbuster Video, the largest video chain in the US also decided not to distribute the video version of the film in any of its stores in 1989. (Lyons 1997, 221)
Protests against Last Temptation in France were more violent than those in the United States. When the film opened in Paris ultraconservative religious groups organised a riot in the foyer of the UGC Odeon. In an attack on the Cinéma St. Michel thirteen people were hospitalised and the theatre gutted. Several kinds of harassment against filmgoers were reported in Lyons, Nice and Grenoble. (Lyons, 1997, 221) In other European cities the reception was less violent, yet the film faced censorship challenges in several countries. In Italy the Roman Catholic diocese of Venice asked that the film were not shown in Venice International Film Festival. In London several parties doubted that the film, according to British law, could be considered blasphemous and to verify this the film was sent to the British Board of Film Classification. (Variety, 24.8.1988) In Ireland the film was banned. (Miles, 1996, 34)
Several similarities and one difference
There are a number of similarities between the debates about The Satanic Verses, Last Temptation and Karmen. Firstly, the tone of the debates was more emotional and moral than intellectual. The disputing parties did not always base their arguments on the facts and the language was laden with emotions. In India as elsewhere, those who opposed The Satanic Verses felt no need to read the novel entirely but contended with some well chosen extracts (Pipes, 1990, 19-20). In the US, religious leaders based their arguments in the manuscript of Last Temptation made in 1983 that in many ways differed from final version in 1988 and used the excerpts abolished from the final film in their propaganda. This was also the case with Karmen: hardly any of the Mourids who came to protest in front of the cinema had seen the film. Even the reporter of a religious radio programme, Serigne Moustapha Diakhaté, provoking people to act against the film had only read in Moeurs that there was an excerpt in the film where a Khassaïd was used in the funeral of a homosexual woman and confirmed the information by calling to the editor in chief. Diakhaté acted similarly to the members of Indian parliament who did not consider it necessary "to wade through a filthy drain to know what filth is" (Syed Shahbuddin in his letter to Rushdie, cited in Pipes, 1990, 19-20). This gave a reason to the journalist of Frasques to make an ironic notice:
Pape Daouda Sow (editor in chief of Moeurs) must be satisfied: a man as remarkable and respectful as Serigne Moustapha Diakhaté reading Moeurs! Besides, one has to remark that Diakhaté has acted like the late Imam Khomeini who declared fatwa against the author of "The Satanic Verses". The first had not seen the film of Joe Ramaka Gaye and the second had not read the novel of Salman Rushdie. This could be called as basing one's decisions merely on second hand information. (Frasques N.o 1, 10.9.2001)
As a result of the fact that the opponents did not want to see the whole film the controversial scene of Karmen was continuously cited unprecisely in public. It was usually claimed - as in Moeurs, which Diakhaté used as a source - that Ramaka combines the Catholic funeral of a homosexual woman to a holy song of Ahmadou Bamba. In reality, there are two separate scenes in the film that together give this impression but neither of them alone has the claimed content. In the first scene Karmen learns about the death of Angelique in a telephone call when she is visiting her former lover Massigi. Sad and tired she rests on the sofa listening to Massigi playing piano and singing Kalamoune, the song of Ahmadou Bamba. During the song, the camera angle moves to the outer door of the women's prison where the chest of Angelique is carried out from the prison on the shoulders of four prison guards. The camera angle then returns to Massigi and again back to the prison outdoors. The whole scene with Kalamoune lasts about one minute. After this scene there is a short cut to Karmen's accomplice Old Samba who is battered by police. Only then comes the scene of the funeral in the Catholic church but the music of Bamba is not any more heard but this scene in accompanied by Catholic chants.
Religious and moral questions provoke people to use emotional language and this was seen in the debates. The adversaries used personal insults and especially the authors and their co-operants were a target of intimidation and offences. In Karmen debate the language of Moeurs and the forum participants is mostly of low register containing insults and rude remarks against Ramaka and those defending the film. Like Rushdie also Ramaka and his family were a target of harassing phone calls and death threats. In one web message he was reminded about the case of Rushdie and was warned about the fatwa:
Joseph a film like this with a lesbian, and still worse with a lesbian accompanied by this song! Think about it, you risk your life for nothing, it's sad. You know that FATWA threatens you. (dame faye 11.9.01, 11.35)
However harmless these kinds of messages might seem compared to the real danger experienced by Rushdie, Ramaka admitted that there were a period he was afraid of his own and his family's safety. Threats and insults also made Ramaka more watchful about his own sayings in public. (Interview of Ramaka 31.3.2002) According to my analysis it was evident that every time Ramaka returned in the publicity the debate on the websites burst again and produced new nasty messages.
The second similarity of the cases is that the original, apparently cultural issue turned into a struggle about economic and political power. In the debate about Last Temptation the Fundamentalist-Baptists gave the dispute anti-Semitist tunes by accusing Jewish producers "taking a swipe of our religion". In spite of the fact that there was only one Jew, the producer Lew Wasserman, associated in the production, Christian protesters labelled the film Jewish and anti-Christian propaganda. (Miles 1996, 34) In the cases of Rushdie and Karmen the main themes and front lines between the adversaries were drawn between Islam and the West. Like Rushdie Ramaka came to be labelled as a messenger of the West whose purpose was to destroy the moral of Senegalese people. Karmen was opposed because it was seen as a means to introduce homosexuality and other western vices in the Senegalese society.
Homosexuality has become a culture, or let's say a sub-culture there and they want make us to accept it in all possible ways (television, papers, films like Karmen etc…) by using the terms like tolerance, modernity or progress. It won't work. The Senegalese sinking in these vices have better to stay where they are if they don't want to risk their life. (Mame, 28.8.01, 22.27)
There is a powerful lobby against Islam behind Karmen. It's a trial balloon. You haven't asked who has financed the film. (PISCO, 15.9.01, 16.09)
Thirdly, all three cases raise questions about democracy and liberty of expression. Whose liberties are protected: of religious people who claim the right to oppose the depictions that hurt their religious feelings or of the artists who demand the right to depict whatever subjects in the manner they have chosen? In democratic societies the dominant understanding of this dilemma is that both groups have their rights but when expressing one's opinion or fulfilling one's conviction one should not harm the other. In some cases the existing laws and codes have offered a solution. For example, in the UK a legal advice was asked about Last Temptation because the film was accused of blasphemy but with The Satanic Verses this could not been done since the British blasphemy law concerns only Christianity. The case reignited in the UK the question whether the common law should be extended to protect also other religions (Levy, 1995, 558).
Senegal has signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), but there are several interpretations about this declaration. According to the two Internet debates I analysed many participants were for the Islamic interpretation of human rights , which put the duties and obligations for God before the rights of human beings. There are, however, no laws confirming this attitude in Senegal. The problem with Karmen was that there were no codes concerning cinema exhibition. The Committee for Cinematic Control has only a consultative role but even this role could not be fulfilled since the Committee was not acting. The authorities were accused in public that they did not fulfil their role as executors of the laws but the situation was so unclear that the Ministries of the Interior and of the Culture did not even agree which of them was responsible for the problem.
The case of Karmen was debated several times in the Senegalese Parliament and it can be assumed that the proposition for the cinematic code advanced in the legislation process partly due to this case. The Parliament was finally presented a proposition for the code March 21 in 2002. According to this proposition every film needs a permit to be screened in Senegal. The Ministry responsible for cinema and audio-visual sectors would deliver the permit after having consulted the Committee for Cinematic Control. (Biaye, 21.3.2002) I have no information how this proposition has advanced in legislation process but, at least, it came too late for Karmen.
Fourthly, there is the fight about the right of representation: how different cultural groups or constituents are represented in public sphere. In the public debate this issue was presented as a question of truthfulness or untruthfulness of the representations. Many Muslim critics complained that Rushdie had not told the truth, as though his novel was intended exactly to recapitulate Islamic history. They also assumed that Rushdie personally subscribed to every word in his book and in so doing did not consider the fictional character of the book. (Pipes, 1990, 110-112) Similarly, the opponents of Last Temptation claimed that Scorsese's portrayal of Jesus did not correspond with the truth. Universal Pictures, when responding to Bill Bright's offer to buy all the prints of Last Temptations asked: "But whose truth? If everyone in America agreed on religious, political and artistic truths, there would be no need for our constitutional guarantees. Only in totalitarian states are all people forced to accept one version of the truth… In the United States, no one sect or constitution has the power to set boundaries around each person's freedom to explore religious and philosophical questions whether through speech, books or film." (Lyons 1997, 166)
In the Karmen debate the questions about the truthfulness of the film concerned the subjects as religious tolerance, homosexuality and the image of woman. Some authors claimed that Senegalese Muslims and Christians have always lived together and buried their deceased together and for this reason the film depicts truthfully the funeral of the prison guard. Accordingly, they argued that homosexuality exists in Senegal and there is no reason to pretend that it does not, even if it is not legally accepted. The others did not accept the idea of mixing Muslim and Christian practises, either did they admit the homosexuality to exist in the country. Therefore, this habit should not be depicted in cinema either. There were also discussions whether the image of a Senegalese woman given in the film corresponds with the reality. This debate originates from the interviews of Ramaka where he defined his film as a tribute to Senegalese women: mothers, aunts and mistresses he has known. For many people it was shameful to compare Senegalese woman to Karmen, a bisexual, impudent rebel and to distribute this kind of representation of Senegalese women abroad.
The main difference between Karmen and the two other cases is that the censorship of Karmen remained as a local protest while the two others became well-known world-wide. The Satanic Verses became famous because Ayatollah Khomeini took a visible role in the dispute but the case itself started as locally as the riot against Karmen. But why did the protests against The Satanic Verses spread around the world while Karmen remained a purely Senegalese issue? The answer must lie in the fact that the accusations against Karmen did not touch the basic values of all Muslims, not even all Sufis since Sufism is divided in several brotherhoods or paths. Karmen hurts especially Mourid brotherhood whose religious leader is mixed up in an obscene relationship.
Mouridism is mainly Senegalese and Wolof brotherhood and it is estimated that 33% of Senegalese belong to this brotherhood. They also have adherents in neighbouring countries and, due to the immigration, in western countries. The confusion of Mourids has to be understood in the context of the role religious leaders, marabuts, have in Sufi brotherhoods. Sufism, the mystical path of Islam was born as a reaction to the "cold" and formalist tenets of more scripturalist Islam, which places great importance on the absolute gulf between man and God. In Sufi brotherhoods this relationship is partly replaced by the close link between the disciple and his marabut, who is considered the intermediator in the disciple's search for blessing and his efforts to enter Paradise (Evers Rosander, 1997, 3-4). But in Senegal there are other Muslims belonging to Islamist or reformist/activist tendencies who consider Mouridism and other brotherhoods heretical forms of Islam. For them Karmen was not a blasphemy because they do not respect Ahmadou Bamba in the same way as Mourids. According to the Islamists the fact that Mourids devote so much respect on their marabuts blurs the central role of Mohamed and the Koran. If the film had hurt some more basic Muslim values the case would certainly have raised interest in other countries as well since it has been distributed in several countries with remarkable Muslim minorities.
- Biaye, Mamadou, Réglementation du secteur cinématographique: Le 7e art sénégalais se dote d'un code. Wal Fadjri, 21.3.2002.
- Boughedir, Férid, Cinéma et libertés en Afrique. In L'Afrique et le Centenaire du Cinéma. FEPACI. Paris and Dakar: Présence Africaine, 1995.
- Evers Rosander, Eva (1997) Introduction: The Islamization of "Tradition" and "Modernity". In David Westerlund and Eva Evers Rosander (eds.) African Islam and Islam in Africa. London: Hurst&Company.
- Levy, Leonard W., Blasphemy. Verbal Offence against the Sacred, from Moses to Salman Rushdie. Chapel Hill and London: The university of North Carolina Press, 1995.
- Lyons, Charles, The New Censors. Movies and the Culture Wars. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997.
- Miles, Margaret R., Seeing and Believing. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.
- Pipes, Daniel, The Rushdie Affair. The Novel, the Ayatollah, and the West. New York: A Birch Lane Press book, 1990.
- Interview of Joseph Gaï Ramaka by the author in Dakar, Senegal 31.3.2002.
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Session: Visual Truth and Reality
Lancaster University Religious Studies
The visual truth and reality of the Indian epic stories the Mahabharata and the Ramayana and their filmed television serials
In this paper I am going to discuss the social and moral values of dharma in the Indian epic stories the Mahabharata and the Ramayana and their filmed TV serials. This gives me an opportunity to investigate the visual truth and reality of the epic stories. This paper is based on my MA dissertation (Alajoki 2002) in which I looked at these epic stories empirically by interviewing people in India and the UK about how they felt about the importance of these stories in their written and filmed versions. I also interviewed film director Ravi Chopra, some actors and other people involved in the production of these serials at the studios of B.R.Films in Bombay, India. This gave me an opportunity to look at sacred media from the point of view of the production team and audience reactions and reception. I am currently involved in gathering data for further research on the topic of the epic stories.
This paper is structured around three key elements. First, I am going to focus on dharma, second, on the epic stories, and third, I am going to discuss their relationships to one another in their filmed serials (particularly in the interview section here). Finally, I will sum up the influence of modern media on the storytelling tradition in India. The paper has a selected bibliography and a glossary of terms relating to the topic of the paper and a list of the terms and concepts from the handout given out in the session.
Understanding other cultures and especially their social and moral values is difficult. Therefore, before looking at the stories or the filmed episodes of the epics I need to explain what the notion of dharma is from the Indian perspective. This is because without understanding the meaning of dharma to the Hindus, there is no understanding of the significance of the sacred epics for Indian society in all their forms in which they are expressed from generation to generation.
For Hindus dharma is their religion, beliefs, duty, truth, way of life, worldview, justice and social order with moral values. Dharma is based on the Vedic scriptures and it is described in the Indian epic stories the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and their characters. These characters and their social relationships, philosophical conversations and decisions traditionally support Hindu identity despite the fact that Indian societies are undergoing social changes, such as those caused by modern technology, city life without extended families, and women's changed positions from those of the house-wife to those of the career woman. It is important to realise that current social changes in Hindu societies may cause a redefinition or reinterpretation of dharma, duty and truth, which are the main themes of the epic stories. Films and the media may play an important role in maintaining or changing social values.
The epic stories
The epic texts are not secular texts of culture, but texts of religious homage, as well as texts that function as metatexts of tradition and dharmic values. In them are contained the absolute values by which tradition can be maintained even as modernity is endorsed.
The Mahabharata is about a battle for power between two families, the Pandavas, who are the symbol of good, and the Kauravas, who are the symbol of bad. Put simply, the story of the Mahabharata is an example of good and bad, but it also offers a perspective on solving disagreement between social groups. The main issues are dharma and duty. These concern what people ought to do in the right way and for the right reason to establish balance within themselves and to ensure their own welfare and the welfare of society. In Hindu thinking this opens up the path prepared for them by the divine.
The other epic, the Ramayana, is a story about the members of one family, the husband Rama and the wife Sita and their relatives. The story offers a perspective on the duties of the husband and wife towards one another, and, just as in the Mahabharata, their duties for their families and their social groups in a battle over the bad. When the duty is described publicly in the epics, values are given to the characters of the story and then their actions become representative of ideal models of life which can be emulated.
Traditionally the stories with social and moral values have been told by parents and grandparents to the next generation from generation to generation since the Vedic time. Today this strong oral tradition has not disappeared, but there are new forms of it. These are films in cinemas and on television, which give a visualized form to the dharmic values with the characters of the epics.
There is no need to say that Indian films are associated with Bollywood productions, although Bollywood produces only 20 per cent of all Indian films. This 20 per cent is about 200 films in a year. The Indian film industry since the beginning of the 20th century has produced thousands of films, but there are only two titles that are most popular and they are the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. They are both produced as television serials e.g. by B.R.Films in Bombay. Generally, references to the epic stories are made in the form of borrowings from their storylines and complicated relationships between their epic characters. In many Indian films these are visible additions that function as labels of truthful dharmic values of life.
The TV serials of the epics have huge audiences sitting in front of their televisions, also those who cannot read or write. They are as much in the deepest countryside as in the middle of slum areas in the hearts of big cities like Bombay and Delhi. There are communities to whom the epic stories are well-known in oral forms, because the tradition supported and still supports Indian social order - the caste system. The caste still exists and excludes the dalit, the untouchables, who are not traditionally allowed to attend Hindu temples or sacred rituals for Hindus, and therefore the epic stories are not necessarily well-known by them. Today the modern media offer an opportunity to tell and visualise the stories and their characters to all, including the dalit.
Now the producers of epic films highlight their own responses as truthful storytellers and people who have to express their duty in public. It is not known yet if this means a truthful order for Indian society with the caste system or just order for equal life in contemporary India. The films are available everywhere and for anyone, and no doubt this is a huge business. It is also a political time bomb that may explode the dharmic social and moral values.
When I interviewed film director Ravi Chopra in Bombay in 2002 he said that the epics transfer core values of Indian life to everyone, also to those who cannot read because of their young age or because of situations otherwise. But whoever tells the epics cannot change a word of the meaning of dharma, because it is everyone's duty to be truthful, and this includes him as the director of the TV serials the Mahabharata and the Ramayana today.
There is also a huge audience of modern city people, who can read and write, but they do not have time to tell the stories to their children. Instead, they have television and videos that can transfer the main values of dharma in these TV serials. Many of these city people feel that they have done their duty as parents when they show the films to their children who do not necessarily understand the meaning of the dharmic values because the visual truth and its values can be seen and understood differently without adult explanation. For example, young boys certainly see flashing arrows more interesting in films than the arrow's symbolic message of the right to kill or to be killed as duty in the battlefield.
Both epic stories contain a multitude of themes and topics but due to the limited space for this paper my solution here is to look at a sample with some actors who have played the most wanted roles that the epics offer for any actor or actress. Their work is demanding, too, because the characters of the epics are described in such a way that individual people can associate themselves with the characters and probably be involved with the stories emotionally. Finally the characters become alive. Therefore there are always some people in the audience who cannot separate the film star and the character from one another.
Actor Gadendra Chauhan did not agree when I asked if he had been treated as Rama's father in his private life because of his role as the father of Rama in the new television serial of the Ramayana. Instead he highlighted his own duty to create the character in a realistic and believable manner because of its important messages. He told me that 'the Ramayana is about how to listen. It is idealism - pure idealism. You should not disobey anybody - basically your elders. You have to follow what the elders tell you. Lord Rama is supreme in idealism. This is what Hindu culture and Hindu civilisation tells me personally, and that is significant for any Indian person.'
Another actor, Pradip Sharma, who plays the role of King Janak, Sita's father, expressed his notions about the character. He associated himself with the character as his duty to be a father, and especially as Sita's father, so well that anyone in the audience understands the necessity of all fathers' duty for their daughters. Sharma also said that 'Rama is every boy's hero as much as Sita is for girls, but acting any roles of the epic stories is an honour'.
When I asked Sharma if he himself feels like a holy messenger, he said 'sort of'. What he says and acts 'is for 200 million people on air on the national TV channels, episode by episode, every week with several repeats and side by side with episodes of the Mahabharata and several other religious serials based on the epics'. He also mentioned how popular the first serial of the Mahabharata was and how it used to be like curfew on Indian roads and streets when it was telecast in 1987-1989.
To be an actor of the epic films differs from being an actor and a film star in other films because actors and actresses as private persons are not highlighted publicly with the epic characters. Instead, all Indian films have adopted elements of social and moral values of the epics and with them some actors or actresses become symbols of the values and heroes and heroines.
One of the most successful film stars and heroes in Bollywood films, Shahrukh Khan (cited in Kabir 2001:49) believes that 'the Hindi film hero is not a stereotype, he is hero-type', because 'he should be the boy-next-door. He should be the kind of person that mothers want to have as a son. He should be the kind of person sisters want to have as a brother, and girls want to have as a boyfriend. [--] But mostly what people tell me is that he should be the kind of person whom mothers and grandmothers like.'
The modern characterization above is an embodiment of a hero-type whose characteristics are drawn from the epics ('be Rama'). One can perhaps say that in order for the modern hero to be acceptable to the modern cinemagoer the hero and his actions need to be characterised through dharmic values. However, actors as visualised representatives of dharmic values come under two groups. Actors playing epic characters are not highlighted publicly as actors, whereas actors playing modern-day heroes with dharmic values are highlighted publicly as actors (such as Shahrukh Khan).
For the Indians the cinema is an important source of wholesome family entertainment and the new media provide powerful experiences for the viewers. Indian people feel that the filmed epics are about 'their house' or 'their families', which makes the films hugely attractive and popular with the audiences. What the filmed epics transfer to the audience is certainly visualised forms of dharma. In other words, this is visualised do's and don't's for people's daily lives.
In my research I found that the conceptual content of dharma seems to be kept the same in the rewritten books and manuscripts for films as it is in the epics themselves. However, there are differences in terms of how people understand the importance of dharma as social and moral values. More specifically, the storyteller can hold a personal or impersonal authority with the audience. The traditional way of storytelling has been based on a personal authority, but the new media have introduced an alternative authority which I call impersonal celluloid authority (for this see Appendix 2 below). This may cause changes that may then lead to a re-evaluation of dharmic values in Indian society in the future.
With the introduction of the new media - sacred media if you like -, and particularly the audio-visual representation of the characters in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the personal authority and the role of the epic storyteller appears to have been taken over by films. Whether this is good or bad for social and moral values in India is a question that I cannot answer yet.
- Alajoki, Anna-Maija. 2002. A Study of Dharma: Social and Moral values in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana and the Modern Media in India. Unpublished MA dissertation in Asian Religions. Lancaster: Department of Religious Studies, Lancaster University. (Available from Lancaster University Library, UK)
- Buck, William. 1973. Mahabharata. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
- Buck, William. 1976. Ramayana. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
- Kabir, Nasreen Munni. 2001. Bollywood. The Indian Cinema Story. London: Channel 4 Books.
- Klostermaier, Klaus K. 1998. A Concise Encyclopaedia of Hinduism. Oxford: Oneworld.
- Lipner, Julius. 1994. Hindus. Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. London and New York: Routledge.
- Mishra, Vijay. 2002. Bollywood Cinema: Temples of Desire. New York and London: Routledge.
- Parthasarathy, Rajagopal. 1998. Indian Oral Traditions. In John Miles Foley (ed.), Teaching Oral Traditions. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 239-249.
- Sankalia, H.D. 1973. Ramayana: Myth or Reality? New Delhi: People's Publishing House.
- Shakur, Tasleem and Karen D'Souza (eds.). 2003. Picturing Asian Culture in English: Textual and Visual Representations. Liverpool: Open House Press.
Bollywood - Trademark for Bombay-based films in India.
Caste-system, illegal by law, but still exists in 2003.
Prototypical hierarchy among Hindus:
The Brahmin - priests, unattainable models of society
The Ksatriya - warriors, protectors of rulers
The Vaisya - traders, build up society
The Sudra - must serve the three higher ones
The Dalit - self-designation of former outcastes and untouchables or scheduled castes.
Deva - name of higher beings and often translated as 'god'.
Dharma - way of life, cosmic and social order, duty for everybody, morality, eternal law. People ought to do the right thing, at the right time, in the right place and for the right reasons.
Duty - responsibility for society, duty toward the gods and goddesses, parents and all living beings, specific duties to worship. The Bhagavadgita is the great poem of duty and part of the Mahabharata. The story concerns a long discourse on dharmic questions between Lord Krshna and Arjuna. It does not have a plot and is based on the philosophy of man's life, which is described in Krshna's answers to Arjuna about duty.
The Mahabharata (The Great Indian) - The story concerns a battle between kings, who were first cousins, - the Pandavas (symbol of good) and the Kauravas (symbol of bad). The main characters are Krshna and Arjuna. Arjuna asks Krshna about his own duty, which was killing his grandfather Bhishma, the patriarch of both families. At the end of the battle Bhishma's death becomes a real question about right and wrong and one's duty. Bhishma acted in good faith and his death united him with his mother, the Ganga (= the River Ganji = the Ganges). Bhishma goes from untruth to truth when he dies. His death can be seen as a sacrificial ritual of the truth, which Julius Lipner (1994:182) describes as 'the bridge from this conditioned and fragile life to the blissful immortality represented and enjoyed by the devas'.
The Ramayana (Rama's Way) - The poet Valmiki tells about the life of Lord Rama from before his birth to his death. The story is about relationships between family members, love, victory of justice, duty and unity between a married couple, Rama and Sita, and their relatives. The story highlights victory of the good over the bad.
Lord Rama - 7th incarnation of Vishnu, the oldest son of King Dasaratha, ruler of Ayodha. Rama is an ideal model of man who was married with Sita.
Sita - The daughter of King Janaka, wife of Rama, kept as a model for Hindu girls through their lives. 'Be Sita' is still said by Indian mothers to their daughters.
Truth - Sanskrit word satya, truth, can be translated as 'the reality of the real'. The crest of Indian government and its official seal is with words 'satyam eva jayate': 'Truth will be victorious'.
Vedic time - Indian scholars write that the Vedic civilisation developed in India around 4000 BCE.
Dharma = based on the Vedic scriptures and described in the epic stories
- way of life
- social order
- moral values
The Epic Stories
Battle of good over bad
Description of duty and truth
Includes the Bhagavadgita,
poem about duty in the discussion
between Lord Krsna and Arjuna
in the battlefield
Story of duty for wife and husband,
Sita and Rama, and battle of good over
bad (which is characterised as Ravana,
the King of Lanka, whom Rama kills).
Storytelling - Oral Tradition
– Traditionally parents and grandparents
(limited) – family, children, next generation
- illegal, but still
- literacy vs. illiteracy
Storytelling - Modern Media
Cinema Television Cartoons
– producers + actors + actresses = Celluloid Authority
(unlimited) – all viewers
Reality vs. Visual Truth
media have taken over parents' duty,
but who is responsible for
of the Media' vs. Way of Life
Dharmic values in the modern media Modern duty in the media
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Apocalypse and Abomination: The Representation of Death in World War II Digital Games
Paper presented at the conference Sacred Media; Transforming Traditions in the Interplay of Religion and Media, Jyväskylä, Finland, 10-13 July 2003, session ”Myths, Icons and Narratives”.
Eva Kingsepp, Stockholm University, Dept. Of Journalism, Media and Communication
Key words: Death, War, Myth, Impurity, Digital games
In the case of WWII - and the WWII FPS (First Person Shooter) games that I am studying for my PhD thesis - death is a main ingredient, so plain and obvious that you might even slip past it while looking for interesting things to analyse. But, as a number of researchers - for example Zygmunt Bauman - have pointed out: representations of death and changes in these, as well as ways in which we handle death and dying, offer important knowledge about cultural processes and self-understanding in contemporary society. This also accounts for our perception of the body and its symbolism, including aspects of impurity and decay (Bauman 1992, 1993, Douglas 1966, Kristeva 1980, Turner 1996, Åhrén Snickare 2002; cf Bakhtin 1965). Obviously, there are important connections to the sphere of myth and religion. As pointed out by Durkheim and others after him, religion and mythical thought are to a large extent present even in so-called secularised societies (Durkheim 1912, Eliade 1957 a, 1957 b, Cassirer 1946), something that becomes quite clear in the context of war. Considering the specific context of war games I found it interesting to add a historical perspective on the mythic concept of war casualties, as examined by George L. Mosse in Fallen Soldiers. Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars (1990).
In this paper I try to sketch the outlines of a study of the representation of death in WWII videogames. I also discuss what this might say about the relationship to death in contemporary society (or, more specifically, in Western popular culture), and conclude with some reflections on the ideological implications that might be found.
1. Death in the virtual world
As those who are familiar with digital action games know, death in this context differs quite a lot from the traditional idea. Death both is and is not the end: your enemies pass away, but your own death is rather a temporary absence. Depending on the game’s perspective, your death announces its presence either when your view suddenly is blurred or directed up into the sky/ceiling/whatever in an ominous angle, or your avatar (that is, figure on the screen) literally goes up in smoke. You die, but you either resurrect at once or after a short while (or, in worst case after having re-entered the level) - a process known among gamers as “respawning”. This is a privilege normally not extended to your enemies - when they die, they die, and quite often their extinction is accentuated by the total disappearance of their bodies. A pool of blood might be the only thing that remains. Or, the corpses might remain, adding to the atmosphere in the game but also functioning as practical tools for the gamer’s orientation, telling that you have been in this place before.
WWII videogames contain two types of death that I suggest might be called postmodern and (borrowing by Bakhtin’s famous study) carnivalesque. The postmodern death can - as will be seen shortly - be described as disappearance rather than extinction. This mode of death comes in its purest form in 2-D digital strategy games of the classic type, constructed like tabletop board games. These do not deal with death and dying other than in a remote and distanced way, since the main objectives are about military tactics. Death strikes not individual soldiers (and of course not civilians!) - since there are no individuals visible - but whole units at once. Casualties are the calculated outcome, not very different from the “death” of pawns in a game of chess. Dying is here a very clean and practical procedure: no blood, no corpses, no debris - just instant removal en masse from the battlefield. Postmodern death is represented also in “realistic” WWII FPS (First Person Shooters) like the Medal of Honor series, an interesting issue that I am dealing with in a forthcoming paper. The term carnivalesque, on the other hand, is an attempt to capture a notion of death where accentuation of the corporeality of the event, highlighting the bloody, the gory and the grotesque, is crucial. This is represented in the highly popular FPS Wolfenstein 3D (1992) and Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001), where the corpses of the Nazi enemy (as well as other creatures) lay where they have fallen - whole or scattered into pieces - thus contributing to the aura of “Nazi-ness” in the game (Kingsepp 2002) but also turning it into an excessive carnival of slaughter. The Wolfenstein games also build on the concept of Nazi occultism, bringing yet another grotesque variety of death into the games: the re-animated dead, the zombies. The combination of Nazis and zombies might seem like a highly bizarre idea typical of B-type movies (like “Gamma 693 - Night of the Zombies” [USA 1983]), but is in fact not entirely made up of fantasy - it actually has its roots in the mythological parts of National Socialist ideology with concepts such as Norse/Germanic myths of berserkir warriors, an army of the dead and werewolves (Arvidsson 2000:224 ff, Ginsburg 1986; cf. Goodrick-Clarke 1994).
Obviously, the issue of death in WWII videogames is quite homogenous. Since I believe that it deserves more than a brief investigation I will deal with the two modes in separate studies, devoting this paper to the carnivalesque.
2. Death and Glory: The Myth of the War Experience
The propagandistic effects of death are of course important during times of conflict (cf. Furhammar & Isaksson 1971). There is (and long has been) a major moral problem in exposing “our” death, while such restrictions are absent concerning “the Others”. In his discussion on the picture postcards that formed an important form of communication during the First World War, George Mosse shows that the image of the war (on the postcards as well as in photographs) was just as sanitised on “our” part as in today’s war games or “ideal” TV broadcast: show none of “our” dead or badly wounded, focus mainly on material devastation. The death of the enemy, however, was shown “in all its horror; no blood was spared, for it could flow freely as far as the enemy was concerned.” (Mosse 1990:136) This was radically altered during WWII, when photographers depicted (and many media showed) violent action as well as dead and wounded in all their gruesome actuality. The new, more realistic conventions lasted until the Vietnam war, when the anti-war effects the pictures had on the audience and thus the public opinion were considered undesireable by the US government but nevertheless could not be ignored (ibid.150; cf. Andén-Papadopoulos 2000:85 ff, Furhammar & Isaksson 1971, Fyne 1997).
George Mosse uses the WWI picture postcards to describe what he calls “the Myth of the War Experience, which also includes the cult of the fallen soldier, and formed a crucial part of the national ideologies in Europe and America until WWII. On the postcards “our” soldiers are depicted as young, heroic warriors, the defenders of the nation (and thus higher virtues) with Christ by their side - and, still, “the boy next door doing his duty deliberately without undue excitement” (ibid. 133), thinking of his home and sending thoughts to his family. Mosse traces the mythical and ideological roots of the Myth of the War Experience back to the French revolution and the War of Independence in the USA, although the formation of it actually took place during the 19th century, borrowing important contributions from the Romantic era.
The latter part of the 1800’s was a time of transition in many Western countries, when pre-industrial society took its final steps into modernity. Rational thinking, science, hygiene and technology were replacing traditional lifestyles as well as religion on a broad front, although in certain areas such as the mythic concept of the Nation and the Volk the aim was rather to embrace historicity and the ancestors in an either overt religious spirit or a profane equivalent. During WWI, the symbolism of youth as manhood, virility and energy made the mass death of young men in the battlefields a symbol not of death itself but of sacrifice and resurrection. The popular contemporary German writer Walter Flex compared the war to the Last Supper:
Christ reveals himself in war, and therefore war itself is a strategy through which Christ illuminates the world. The sacrificial death of the best of our people /…/ is only a repetition of the Passion of Christ. The Passion leads to resurrection: “On Christmas night the dead talk in human voices.” (Quoted in Mosse 1990:75)
In the cult of the fallen soldier, the return of the dead heroes to protect their country formed an important part. Honoured at national shrines such as war cemeteries and war memorials, they were also present among the living in speeches and thoughts. Even in the shape of ghosts and angels did the fallen watch over their families and their nation (ibid. 70 ff). This stands in stark contrast to the otherwise rational schemas of modernity; one might suggest that in this case, the Myth of the War Experience formed a “pocket” in societal ideology where otherwise banned irrational, religious and mythical thinking could thrive in a fully legitimate and even encouraged way.
Today, it seems like the Myth of the War Experience of WWI in many aspects seems to have returned into fashion, including the glorification of the Warrior (considering some of the pictures in US media from the latest war against Iraq). But the soldier as a fierce, heroic warrior fighting for the glory of the Nation and for what is Right and Just has never disappeared from the domains of popular culture, where it is an archetype in a vast amount of books, films, comics and digital games. I would suggest that today this myth (perhaps with the exception of the cult of the dead soldier) is at its most visible in the First Person Shooter war games. As I said earlier, there are mainly two types of death in WWII videogames. The one I call “postmodern”, where death is clean and neat disappearance, will be dealt with in a forthcoming paper. In the case of the variety dealt with here, carnivalesque death and its extreme focus on the destruction/decomposition of the human body, there are obvious parallels to the WWI postcards. What would (if anything) it suggest about our contemporary notions of death and dying, as well as about today’s society? Are there two parallel conceptions of death, one postmodern (taking further the values of modernity) and one which has its roots in the pre-modern era? In attempting to find answers I will now go on to theories on postmodernity by Zygmunt Bauman and Jean Baudrillard, Julia Kristeva’s writings on abjection and Mary Douglas’s on purity and danger.
3. Death, modernity and postmodernity
As shown by scholars like Mary Douglas (1966) and Mircea Eliade (1957 a, 1957 b), man as a social being is in his nature ritualistic. When it comes to basic concepts like survival and the organisation of society, rituals are of crucial significance even in an allegedly secularised culture. In modern Western society, beginning in the 19th century, traditional rituals connected to dying and the dead were transformed under the banners of hygiene, differentiation, science and technology. Modernity’s idea of dying became that of a first and foremost medical procedure which should take place in secluded spaces like hospitals. The dead body was taken care of in an efficient, modern way by specialists, again in specially selected locations (morgues, crematories, cemeteries) that were distant from the surrounding ordinary life, from normality (Bauman 1992:165ff, 1993:28-30; Giddens 1991:192-3, Åhrén Snickare 2002). From having been basically flesh, with all its connotations to nature (and therefore subject to disciplinary regulations grounded in religious ethics), including such qualities as decay, the human body was transformed into a secularised entity ideally more like a perfect machinery than God (Turner 1996; cf Haraway 1991, Marinetti 1909). This Cartesian distancing made the liminal, and therefore dangerous, character of life’s border zones (birth, death) even more troublesome than they had been before (cf Douglas 1966, Kristeva 1980) and therefore had to be socially organised in a new way. Thus, the return of the civilised person’s body to nature after death had to be ritualised by exclusionary practices: the dead being deconstructed by rituals indicating the transcendence back into a “natural” state (Turner 1996:198). The conceptions of death and the decomposing body became intimately connected to filth, impurity and contamination, and thus to feelings of shame, disgust and horror (Bauman ibid., Kristeva 1980, Åhrén Snickare 2002). Accordingly, the propaganda for cremation among social refomers during the turn of the century 1900 built on the notion that our loved ones should not after a respectable and honourable life in the spirit of new, modern man be confined to nauseating decay after death. The corpse - now more comfortably renamed ashes (in Swedish stoft) -, with its inherent potentiality of impurity brought forward by death, should ideally be cremated, thus both symbolically and literally cleansed by fire (and simultaneously promoting hygiene in society since there would be no further problems with overcrowded cemeteries). All that remained would be a heap of white - the colour, in fact, seemed to be important - ashes (Åhrén Snickare 2002:191 ff).
Bauman, quoting Baudrillard, describes a postmodern conception of death, where its character of termination has changed into respite and transition, disappearance rather than extinction. The world where death is disappearance is, according to Bauman, a co-existence of people (compared to a formerly linear existence in a restricted space) where space has several levels: when people have to leave space on one level they just move to another. In this world, linear time has been replaced by cyclic time; here disappearance is in contrary to death not final, since you can never be sure that it lasts forever. Disappearance makes repetition, a fundamental quality of postmodern society and also poor man’s way of immortality, possible (Bauman 1992:217 ff, 1993). The similarities with the hyperreal, multi-level virtual worlds of digital games are truly striking, and in the same time the changes in spatio-temporal conception that are suggested indicate a shift from the rational, differentiated, linear paradigm with roots in Protestantism and Enlightenment to a more romantic, undifferentiated, almost pagan worldview (cf Douglas 1966:112 ff on primitive vs. modern societies).
Today’s emphasis on the body as a site of pleasure, desire, difference and playfulness is the result of a wider cultural process connected to the transformation of society from bourgeois industrial capitalism to a secularised hedonistic mass consumerism. But the body is today perhaps more than ever subject to regulation and discipline; as Turner puts it: “The new anti-Protestant ethic defines premature ageing, obesity and unfitness as sins of the flesh” (Turner 1996:234). To achieve the predominant ideal of the young, slim and healthy body (despite your actual age) there are numerous strategies, of which self-starvation and medical surgery belong to the most drastic but nevertheless culturally accepted. Thus the idea of the declining or otherwise deviant body as an anomaly is still very much (or even more?) present in postmodern culture.
Death and its symbols are today to be found everywhere - in popular culture, in advertising, in art… (cf Orrghen 1997) We live virtually surrounded by death, not only symbolically but also in the form of our daily nightmare caused by modernity’s deconstruction of death (Bauman 1992:178, 217). Postmodernity does not seem to have altered modernity’s notion of death in itself as abomination, although in this context it seems to be considered less definite (disappearance instead of death) and more of an omnipresent expression of anomaly which can be conjured and controlled by rituals (cf Bauman 1992:201 ff, Kristeva 1980). But death and decay of the body in the postmodern is also something else. Contemporary popular culture contains elements of the pre-industrial carnivalesque tradition which it has transformed into media images (Featherstone 1992:22), not least in digital games. Here, focus lies on intensities of a liminal character, transgressing the boundaries with the normal and providing, as Featherstone puts it, a de-controlled control of the emotions (ibid. 24, 45, 59, 81; cf Ryan 2001 on immersion). And in the tradition of the carnivalesque emphasis lies in the corporeal, the grotesque, the lowest, with a special interest in the bodily functions that are closest to nature (thus in the classic Christian conception farthest from God). It also focuses on the liminal: birth, death, decay and rebirth as well as the liminal zones of the human body, both in its physical appearance and, as said, their functions. As Bakhtin underlines, laughter, humour and irony form an important part of medieval grotesque, in contrast to the Romantic equivalent of the 19th century. While the Romantic grotesque expresses fear of the world and tries to frighten its audience, the medieval and Renaissance ditto turns the awsome into something ridiculous, a fear conquered by laughter (Bakhtin 1965:48).
Maybe this, together with Douglas’s interpretation that a voluntarily partaking of symbols of mortality signifies a kind of protection against the effects of death, can give us clues also to the cultural strategies of postmodern society (Douglas 1966:247). In that case, the abundance of morbid signifiers might serve as basically ritualistic attempts to ensure us of continued life as we know it. There are similarities, as Kristeva has shown, to the Aristotelian function of poetic catharsis: only by throwing yourself out into the abject, that which is the most abominable and fearful, can you protect yourself from it. And the carcass, death haunting life, is the most abject of all (Kristeva 1980:27-28, 52-53, cf 135-137).
4. Rituals and the conjuration of Death
The metaphor of symbolic conjuration makes perhaps best sense when put into the context of the games. Every time when death is imposed on an enemy your own status as living is enhanced (in some games both symbolically and literally when you get health points and/or extra lives) - and in the same time death itself is killed, since exterminating those threatening your life (such as those selected as carriers of disease) is a symbolic substitute for exterminating death itself (Bauman 1992:196). This is a well-known strategy for societies dealing with what is considered to be deadly threats, with the Holocaust as one of the most extreme expressions. Symbolically killing death is, according to Bauman, a tribal rite, aiming at the preservation of the tribe’s cultural security as well as cultural supremacy (cf Douglas 1966). In this project, the main goal is not the enemy on the other side of the border but the far more dangerous enemy within - an insecure representative of death, who albeit being different does not come from the outside but has been nourishing itself from the inside all its life (Bauman 1992:197-198). As Sartre expresses it: nothingness is perceived situated in the very core of being (au sein même d l’être), like a worm (Sartre 1943:56). The deadly threat of the enemy within is visualised in the aforementioned WWI picture postcards, where the gruesome death of traitors was depicted with as much as fervour as that of the enemy (Mosse 1990:136).
This fundamental lack, emptiness, disturbance of totality at the core of being, is central to philosophers like Sartre and Heidegger, who examine the existential anxiety that the discovery of it causes and our strategies for coping with it. Julia Kristeva adapts a psychoanalytical angle on the subject: the abject (which in her description shows many similarities to Heidegger’s Nothingness as well as nausea and stickiness in Sartre’s writings), is experienced in its full power when the subject discovers the impossible within him/herself; that the impossible is his/her own being, and that this being is nothing else but abject. This repulsion of itself would, according to Kristeva, be the highest form of the experience in which it is disclosed to the subject that all its objects rest on a fundamental lack (Kristeva 1980:28 ff; italics in original. Cf Bauman 1992:120-121). And lack is, as for example Douglas has shown, one of the foremost abominations, since lack disturbs the very holiest: entirety and order within creation (Douglas 1966:77 ff).
5. The symbolism of Whiteness and the threat from inside
Richard Dyer (1997) has discussed the importance and symbolism of essential whiteness, as in connoting spiritual supremacy, in visual representations not only of human beings but also of death. Death is white, and pallor is sublime. Here is no space to go into a detailed account for Dyer’ s interesting thoughts; suffice it for now to say that the essence of whiteness is considered to be purity and absence of affection (which might be seen as a high level of self-control). These are of course the familiar virtues of saints and other servants of the Christian faith, as well as ideals of both Protestant ethics and modernity; a concept which in our time is taken to its perhaps most extreme form in the figure of the android as the ultimate goal of the white man (ibid. 207 ff). Whiteness is clean, thus not reproductive, and it brings death - even to other whites, although preferably those on the borders of whiteness. But white might be stained by blood, the colour of life (and consequently of woman and nature; cf Kristeva 1980:121 ff), or by dirt, unholiness in contrast to the holiness of the clean spirit. The threat to white man comes both from the inferior hordes of reproductively efficient, non-white (literally or symbolically) multitudes and from within supreme whiteness itself: the suspicion of its own emptiness. This is, according to Dyer, a major cultural dominant in our time (Dyer 1997:216-217).
Taken further, the dichotomy ultimate holiness/danger in the same entity might also be likened to the totem/taboo relationship discussed by Freud (1944; also Douglas 1966, Kristeva 1980), where terror and holiness are combined in the taboo. The tabooed object also contains a threat of deadly contagion to those not fitted for handling it, which is to most of the society members. The only ones that can deal with it in a proper way are those with extraordinary powers, like the king/chief or the magician/high priest/shaman (cf. Cassirer 1946). -Would whiteness, the supreme goal of modern Western patriarchal society, be subject to taboo in this sense? I would suggest that there in fact is a symbolic representation of this, which is also visible in the WWII games. The idea might seem provocative, but nevertheless challenging - and in order to get to it we must first turn to the subject of Evil and Apocalypse.
6. Apocalypse, zombies and the victory over Evil
In digital games on the whole there is something of a moral obligation of exterminating everything that is archetypal Evil, thus non-human and consequently a threat to mankind, just like for example monsters, mutants, zombies and Nazis. Death is here present as an active force to be vanquished. One possible, albeit banal, explanation might be, then, that games of this kind function on a mythic level as assuring confidence, since we are continuously shown that Evil and death can be defeated, and that I have the personal ability of accomplishing this. Fate is no longer solely in the hands of others - I as an individual can (and must) make a contribution. As shown for example by Carlquist (2000) in relating to Campbell (1949), many adventure-type videogames follow the archetypal pattern of the hero quest, where the conquest of Evil and the victory of Good (including personal rewards for the hero) are fundamental (cf. Murray 1997:185 ff). Many games are also following the tradition of the grotesque in what I suggest is mainly its medieval form, where irony and laughter are important (Bakhtin 1965). Death and Evil may thus not only be vanquished but are also something to laugh at, which diminishes both their status as well as the moral implications of killing in digital games.
The notion of repetition is central here: it should be noted that the struggle in fact has no real end. (Even after finishing a game you can always restart it.) Evil has to be defeated again and again, since the reward does not come until all spawns of impurity have been exterminated - and there are lots and lots of them. One characteristic of Evil in WWII FPS (as well as in other, similar games) is that there is an abundance of it. Like germs, flies, or why not the grasshoppers of the Old Testament, representatives of Evil swarm all over the virtual worlds. (It is a fascinating parallel that among the abominations introduced in Leviticus a particular class of impure animals consists of those that creep, crawl or swarm on the ground - patterns of movement that explicitly conflict holiness [Leviticus 11:41-44, see Douglas 1966:83].) Here is an obvious connotation to the well-known metaphor of disease (cf. Bauman 1992:193 ff). One is also tempted to see a connection to Dyer’s notion of white man being threatened by the reproductive abilities of non-whites, as well as to other ideas of the masses being constitutive of special dangers. Consequently, in WWII games there are a lot of Germans (and in some places also their evil - one might say “contaminated” - allies) for you to kill, and that is of course not far from historical reality. In the more fantastic WWII FPS like those following the Castle Wolfenstein theme, there are not only Nazis all over the place but also other traditionally ghastly creatures like zombies and ghosts.
The zombie theme is especially interesting and could be the subject of a whole study of its own. Not only do zombies in Western popular culture tend to come in great numbers and spread their “disease” in a frightfully fast manner; as Dyer notices, zombies are also White in several aspects. They are often white people, and if they are of another skin hue, it is whitened through death. As dead, they are also symbolically white, and as white people symbolically are bringers of death, it follows that zombies are dead, thus symbolically as well as literally white, people bringing death to mainly other white people, who also carry the symbolism of death (!). One might describe it as an orgy in incestuous multi-level cannibalism. The average zombie film “/…/ repeatedly produces startling images of white people as the dead devouring the dead. Much of what we see is just this: white people chomping away at white people” (Dyer 1997:211). And Dyer concludes with suggesting the apotheosis of whiteness: “to be destroyed by your own kind” (ibid.). This might be compared to George Romero, creator of classic zombie movies like Night of the Living Dead (1968), cited calling his zombies “the blue collar monster”; “they’re us”, as one of his characters say. Romero´s zombies represent what has been called the new body language, the iconography, the communal rituals, if you will, for disposing of bodies that had been quietly kept out of sight, removed hygienically from the public eye, whose decaying flesh had been covered with leftover sacred deodorants but never buried. /…/ And their bodies - our bodies! - become “the central marker upon which we articulate the spectacular degradation of everyday life”(Stone 2001:29).
The zombie theme in the games enhances the symbolism of Death at the very core of Being; Being as normality and superiority being synonymous with whiteness.
7. Concluding discussion. The Nazi - zombie connection: the ultimate threat revealed?
All taken together, and especially considering Dyer’s and Kristeva’s writings, I dare suggest that the main mythical function of the WWII FPS would not be as much about ritualising the defeat of an apocalyptic, external Evil (as it well might be in other genres), or even a carnivalesque dethroning of Death and Evil into laughter, as an exorcism of Evil within ourselves. Of course, these functions surely are there as well, but on a deeper level I would say that they are subordinate co-workers within the “exorcism hypothesis”. The indications of this seem to come through the Nazi-zombie connection. To begin with the latter, zombies are (as we know) very grotesque, abominable, dangerous and lethal, which according to the logic discussed above alone justifies killing them. Taken further, their symbolism of latent self-destruction within the white man is supported by both their obvious opposition to cosmic and societal as well as individual order and the contagious character of their abnormal mode of being. (Zombies traditionally have human brains as their favourite food and their pattern of movement is definitely part of those classified as unholy - yet another two, one might say rather superfluous, signifiers of their abominable quality.) But what would make the Nazi-zombie connection so fruitful? Although there are not zombies in all WWII FPS, I suggest that their symbolism can be transferred onto the popular conception of the Nazis through the concept of whiteness, indicating ideologically important issues in contemporary society.
Before I explain myself further, it should be noted that most hero characters in WWII games are white. Historically the war was mainly about white people killing each other, and most WWII game narratives are consequently set in Europe. The equipment necessary for playing electronic games demands a fair amount of money. WWII games have their - predominantly male - audience mainly in the Western world. This means that the chances of the WWII gamer being white, middle-class and male are quite big. Whiteness is thus presumably an important part of identification, and identification with the narrative is of course crucial for a satisfying gaming experience. But identification does not only lie in ethnicity, class and gender; equally important are cultural myth and ideology. Together with the characteristics of modernity/postmodernity discussed above, and the components of the Myth of the War Experience (which, as we have seen, after a period of decline again at least partially lives on both in our society and in the games), we get the following core ideals forming what I suggest as important parts of a current Western cultural myth:
Whiteness, superiority, “a new man”/”man-machine”, masculinity, youth, aesthetics of the perfect body, heroism, the warrior, Us/Them, science, technology, and hygiene.
Somehow the picture seems rather familiar… Put into the context of the games, and combining the notion of whiteness as ultimately containing its own destruction with the magic formula “kill the enemy within”, the successful combination of Nazis and zombies makes sense. The popular conception of the Nazis is in many ways paradoxical: in almost everything they match our own cultural ideals, but as we all know, they are (were) not “the perfect new breed of man”. On the contrary, they are considered the essence of human evil, rendering them inhuman. They are an abomination within whiteness, within ourselves - like the worm of nothingness, the deadly threat of Nazism lies at the very core of our own society. The zombies make this visible as the dark, hidden side of the ideal (compare the quotation above!) and expose it to the light, out of the closets and hastily shovelled coverings. Like zombies, the Nazis are us - a deadly threat coming from within ourselves that has to be hunted down and every germ of it extinguished, for the sake of our culture’s future existence. That is the constantly returning hero-quest that will hopefully come to a definite end at the final apocalyptic battle against all that is Evil. Or (as postmodern logic indicates) there might not be an end, a final solution to the problem - just a “disappearance” and an eternal return.
Eva Kingsepp, MA, is a PhD student in Media and Communication at JMK, Stockholm University, Sweden. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Any Publicity is Good Publicity
The role of the media in the process of the marginalisation of the Nokia Revival from the national church of Finland
Keywords: boundary line between the hegemonial and the marginal, media as a tool, miracle narratives, mythic drama
University of Helsinki, Comparative Religion, Finland
The subject of my ongoing study is a Finnish charismatic movement called the Nokia Revival.
Over a period of two years I have observed the phenomenon from different angles and focuses, and
with different methods.1 The relationship between the movement and the media is the focus of this
paper. I discuss the role of the media from the viewpoint of the movement, and the role of the
media as an actant in the chain of events which led to the marginalisation of the movement. With a
simple model, I will demonstrate the communication between the media, the movement and the
national church. I also speculate about the position of the media as a gateway to another,
secularized reality. I demonstrate this speculation by the model based on the mythic actant model
of A. J. Greimas.
History of The Marginalisation of the Nokia Revival
The Nokia movement became famous all over Finland in between the years 1998 and 2000 with the help of the media. Nationwide TV and press became interested in miracle healings and praising taking place in Nokia. Headlines compared the evenings in Nokia with for example shamanistic rituals, mass hypnoses etc. Between the minister of congregation, the leader of the movement Markku Koivisto and the national church, and the bishop of Tampere, Juha Pihkala, a conflict arose regarding the interpretation of the Bible. The behaviour and actions following the interpretation in Nokia caused confusion among some members of the church. In the Nokia evenings Koivisto encourages the audience to show emotions freely and to communicate with God. Faith in God among the movement is based on personal experience and on Bible. Whereas in a traditional Finnish service emotions are under control, and the atmosphere is cool and calm. The interpretation of Bible and the following behaviour is based on Christian Lutheran tradition that is defined and governed by the hierarchical organisation of the church.
Media´s role in this conflict was to make the disagreements between these two visible for a wider audience. The publicity of this dialogue pressed the church to make a decision. The church and the bishop of Tampere got into a situation where the line between the officially accepted and the non-accepted had to be strengthen. During a public debate in media, a decision was made by the church. Although the ordinary folk mostly agreed with Koivisto, according to the gallup arranged by the newspaper Aamulehti (23.12.2000), the Nokia Revival was transferred into a marginal position. Koivisto continued his mission with the Nokia Revival first in absence from his duties, and after nearly two years he finally resigned from his duties as a minister of the congregation of Nokia.
The Process of Communication
In the next model I try to sketch out the process of communication between the media, the Nokia Revival and the national church. The Nokia Revival represents the marginal, and the national church of Finland, the hegemony. The same simple model is appropriate for any other marginal-hegemony set-ups in relation to the media.
The characteristic of the media, according to the cultivation theory of George Gerbner and the spiral of silence theory of Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann (Puro; 78-81) is that the interests of the media fluctuate. After writing about one subject for some time the saturation point is reached and the focus of interest changes. The silence follows. Things recently in headlines cease to exist (spiral of silence). Those who follow the media might have misconception that only the things the media represents exist (cultivation).
With hegemonial discourse I refer to the naturalized and self-evident attitudes and values which are defined and maintained by hegemony and not usually questioned (see for example Fairclough 1989 & 1999.) The hegemonial discourse constructs the consensus of opinion and this way it also constructs social reality. This is what the representatives of marginality question. The media is the channel and the stage where the disagreements between the hegemonial and the marginal discourses manifest.
First (model on the left) there was a dialogue (1) between the Nokia Revival and the national church. The media “sniffed” (2) the story (maybe some reporter heard about healings or the discussion going on inside the church). Media made this dialogue visible and public (3).
The participants of the dialogue (model on the right) reacted (1) to the image the media showed. The publicity pressured the church to define its hegemonial lines, and through this act the church tried to put end to the public discussion2. Also, in the case of the Nokia Revival, the articles and current television programs did not come up to the movement´s expectations. Their own views contradicted with the public image. Markku Koivisto wrote about his reactions to the publicity and to the separation from the church in his book “The Truth of Nokia” (2000). He felt misunderstood and humiliated. After two months introspection and praying Koivisto said: “Any publicity is good publicity. It is not important what I feel but that the Revival will spread among people.”(Interview 22.3.2001)
During this public period Koivisto and the Nokia Revival realized that media´s way to represent things was focused on sensational features. And consequently one possible way to react to the image was to adapt to the situation, and further create the strategy in relation to media. The Nokia Revival tried to turn the defeat into the victory. Conceivable they though that they will give media what it wants.
The media strengthen further the image it already started to create. The conflict and contradictory position between the church and the Nokia Revival culminated in media (2).
Narratives, the connection point
Essential to the Nokia Revival are miracle narratives. The personal experiences of miracles are formulated in narratives and repeated by the experiencer both in public testimonies during the Nokia evenings, and in everyday conversations in the field. These narratives are retold by other members inside and outside the group. Thus, miracle narratives are a living folk tradition. According to empirical researches, representations that include features that go beyond realistic expectations are easily remembered, better than ordinary narratives (Pyysiäinen 2002). In this context miracle narratives seem to maintain the spirit of Nokia Revival and create cohesion among the supporters of the movement (see also Dégh 1994, Hovi 2003). Miracles appear as demonstrations of the Holy Spirit and the accumulation of miracle accounts strengthen faith in God and in the power of praying (as demonstrated in the Nokia evenings).
Besides this oral narration media offers a channel (and a stage) where miracle narratives are repeated. Through newspapers, television programs, internet or radio these testimonies spread faster and affect their bearers more deeply than folklore without media intervention (Dégh 1994; 145). The Nokia Revival uses actively all the possible media channels. They have a famous programme in a Christian radio station, web home pages with interactive services etc.
Narratives can thus be seen as a connection point between the media and the Nokia Revival. It seems that the Nokia Revival is an inexhaustible source of stories useful to the media within certain culture-bound limits.
In the frame of faith the narratives, although entertaining, are esteemed to be true. (About frames, see Bateson 1987 & Goffman 1986) Whereas, the same narratives are profane and entertaining stories in the frame of the media (except in the media controlled by Charismatic or other Christian movements). In the end the interpretation is based on the gaze of a believer or a non-believer, who evaluates representations of narratives.
The case example; culture-bound media
A news that caused quite a stir was the case of Pavel (a five year old boy drowned during the summer holiday in Finland). Koivisto among other members of the movement prayed for the dead child at the request of the father. The child did not rise from the dead. Main argument of the movement was that like the Bible tells, anything is possible to God.
Anyway, rise from the dead is not held equally impossible in some other parts of the world where Christian charismatic movement has spread at high rate, and where the Christian message of salvation is met with, and mixed with strong traditional ways of belief on the other, supranormal reality. During my fieldwork (in April 2002) I heard about a Nigerian pastor who had died in a car accident, and after being in the coffin three days, rose from the dead during the sermon of a famous preacher Reinhard Bonnke. In the next new year evening the same pastor Daniel Ekwertu flew to Tampere from Nigeria to testimony his experience in front of 12 000 people in the Nokia Revival Evening.
Presumably the movement expected publicity through this miracle. The narrative was also the proof that this kind of miracles happened, if not in Finland, at least in some other part of the world.
A press conference was arranged by the Revival but the news about the miracle concerning the rise from the dead did not go beyond the limits of nationwide publicity. The speech of the African pastor sounded as if it was intended to act as a deterrent to the audience. The message was that heaven and hell exists.
In the Finnish cultural climate, concrete speeches about heaven and hell and risings from the dead sound far more like fairytales. They go beyond the boundary lines of hegemonial discourse. There are certain culture-bound limits that differ from for example the African one.
The two seemingly similar miracle narratives, the case of Pavel, (published) and the case of African pastor (non-published), are examples of the culture-bound limits of media. The news from the attempt to rose the child from the dead by praying (not succeeded) was an example that gave quite a questionable impression of the minister Koivisto and the whole movement. The function of the news was to present, with a concrete example, how the movement stepped over the accepted boundary lines of culture. Then, the case of African pastor might have caused confusion among readers or, even worse, criticism towards the paper and reporter. In the cases like this reporters practise self-criticism, as an informant from media told me.
The mythic Act - mythical dimensions of the role of the media
In my ongoing study I have tested the mythic actant model of A. J. Greimas3 to my data. With reference to the theme of the SacredMedia conference I test this model also to the relationship between the media and the Nokia Revival. With the help of this model it is possible to observe the phenomena from a higher level of abstraction.
According to Greimas` mythic actant model (Greimas 1980; 205-206), every text forms a small drama with six actors or actants. Besides the original model of A. J. Greimas, poststructuralist applications of the model are mostly used to analyse different kind of narratives as a process4. The main difference to my application is, firstly, the perspective, and secondly, the manifestation of the act. The structure of the model in my application is merely seen as a spatial and contextual space, a stage where the narratives take place. From this view the narrators are also part of the set-up in the drama. When all the actants are present the manifestation takes place. The counterforce from the helper and from the opponent pressed the subject towards the target, the object of his/her intention. On the contrary to Greimas who evaluate the opposing sides only secondary, and to applications where the opposing sides are evaluated non- necessary, I rather emphasize the necessity of roles of the helper and the opponent as counterforce.
In Greimas` model the direction of the line (act) from the sender to the receiver is one-way. In my application the same line has interactive emphasis. Both the sender and the receiver take equally actively part to the whole act. The sender does not exist without the receiver and vice versa.
The activator of the whole scene is the intention of the subject for the object (which the subject tries to obtain), with the help of counterforce. The object is situated in the middle of the interactive line between the sender and the receiver. The object is manifested in the process of the interaction between the sender and the receiver. The helper and the opponent pressure the subject via counterforce.
The model in the context of the Nokia Revival (supranormal reality):
The intention of the person is to get touched by the Holy Spirit. The touch of the Holy Spirit is the object, the desire of the subject. God is the sender. Without God spiritual essence (the Holy Spirit) does not exist. The prayer receives the essence God is sending. He is the receiver. The prayer is the specialist in regard to God. The most powerful prayer is Markku Koivisto because God is operating most often through him5. God needs the prayer with whom the object of subject`s desire, the Holy Spirit, can manifest (and vice versa). So, the quality of the relationship is also complementary.
The Nokia Revival has the role of the helper. It creates the atmosphere where the experience of the touch of the Holy Spirit might be possible from the subject´s viewpoint. The outside world, the hegemonial discourse and the national church are the opponents who might judge the revival meetings to be questionable as the bishop did. Potentially there lies also the fear of being marked6. All that restrain a person to experience the touch of the Holy Spirit are in opposite position and might be interpreted as the powers of darkness.
In the Nokia Revival evening the drama takes place in the mythical world, in the supranormal reality. All the actants have the ability to co-operate with supranormal except the opponent. Therefore the opponent is also the gateway to another, secular reality.
The model in the context of the media (profane reality):
In this context the subject is the reader of the media. The reader follows the information media offers in order to know the truth. (The subject´s intention can also be for example entertainment.) The object, subject´s desire, in this example, is the truth. The hegemonial discourse in the culture is the helper. It supports the intention of the subject. Marginal discourse, for example the Nokia Revival, is the opponent as it questions the consensus of opinion of the secular and the hegemonial discourse.
In order to manifest the truth (the object) the source of the truth (the sender) and the specialist to receive it (the receiver) is needed. The phenomena of life is the source and the sender, and the reporter is the specialist, the receiver.
In this application the drama takes place in the secular reality. All the actants except the opponent co-operate in the rational world beyond the limits of the culture. The opponent is the point where the supranormal aspects appear and therefore it is the gateway to another, supranormal reality.
In this paper I have suggested some ideas for further discussion. There are many questions which I left open. The diversity of the media, for example, has not been included, rather the media is seen as a unit.
First, I have observed the relationship between the Nokia Revival as the representative of marginality, and the national church as the representative of hegemony, and the role of the media in between. The media makes the boundary line between hegemonial and marginal discourses visible for wider audience. The reappraisal of the boundary line in question gain ground. Both the marginal and the hegemony define their lines and essence in contrast to one another (with the help of media).
Secondly I found out a connection point between the movement and the media. I stated that the miracle narratives are a living folk tradition, which is essential to the Nokia Revival and useful to the media. Narratives, in general, are part of the social communication that creates cohesion inside groups. A group defines its lines in contrast to another group. A conflict follows, and an appraisal of separating lines between different groups takes place.
Finally I progressed into the more abstract model of A. J. Greimas. The perspective of this model steps above previous conflicts. In Greimas´ model every actant has an equally important role. The mythic act does not manifest without all the six actants and without the intention of subject´s desire. The model gives perspective to different kinds of manifestations.
With the help of the application of Greimas` model I compared the supranormal reality of the Nokia Revival and the profane reality of the outside world (controlled by media)from the viewpoint of the subject. In the both examples hegemonial and marginal discourse are in the position of the helper or the opponent which function is to pressure the subject via counterforce to act according to its intention. The opponent point is in both cases the gateway to another reality. It is also the only point where the line between supranormal and “ordinary” reality is exceeded. In the Nokia Revival context the opponent is only position to the secular actant, and vice versa. In secular world the representative of the supranormal reality is in the opponent position.
The source of the spiritual (supranormal) essence, the touch of the Holy Spirit, and the source of the truth share the position of the sender. God and the phenomenon of life have obviously common features. At least they both are difficult to sketch out in their width and extent. It seems that from the subject´s viewpoint phenomena of life is in profane world something that is comparable to God in supranormal (or sacred) world. Finally, a position of the receiver is filled by the specialist, the prayer (the intercessor) or the reporter.
The mythic drama of the Acts of Apostles is relived during the Nokia evenings. In this experience-based reality (philosophical view to reality, see more Hans-Georg Gadamer), where the supranormal is present, media has its special role. Media is a tool to spread the revival, and the connection point to another, secularized world.
Every comment, suggestion, criticism or alike is very welcome. Please contact me to e-mail address above.
- During the period of ethnography I had the status of a researcher and a filmmaker. My first focus was on the discourse of sickness and healing in relation to religious discourse. Pohjanheimo 2002.
- During the dialogue the church hold the view that the discussion should be non-public. Auruksenaho 2003.
- The Structuralist and semiotic A .J. Greimas published his model first in 1966 in French. Since, it has been used among structuralists and sociologists in the analysis of different kind of texts.
- I give a detailed account of the differencies and the similarities between the applications of model in my ongoing master thesis at Helsinki University, comparative religion.
- This is commonly accepted opinion among the participants. The queue for Koivisto´s intercession consists more than hundred people as in the same time the other prayers have no queue at all.
- In everyday language people who take part in revival meetings are called ”hihhulit”, hurahtaneet” .These words includes that they are not dangerous to society but perhaps little out of sense.
- Video material from the evening in Nokia and the interview with Markku Koivisto 22.3.2001.
- Literated tapes from live broadcast from thursday evenings; 15.2.2001, 15.3.2001,22.3.2001, 5.4.2002, 23.8.2001, 13.9.2001.
- Three in-depth-interviews.
- Notes from the participant observation.
- Aamulehti: 152 articles concerning the Nokia Revival between 5.3.2000-2.1.2001.
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- Pohjanheimo, Outi 2002. Healing through Praying in a religious context. The discourse of healing in the evening of the Nokia Revival. Paper presented in IIIrd Nordic seminar of Medical Anthropology in Mekrijärvi 21-26.3.2002.
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About Sacred Media
The international scientific conference Sacred Media; Transforming Traditions in the Interplay of Religion and Media took place in Jyväskylä, Finland
in July 10-13, 2003. The object of the Sacred Media -conference was interdisciplinary approach to the study of mediated religion and religious phenomena in the media. The Conference continued the scholarly discussion that has in the 1990s been called "The Media, Religion and Culture Paradigm" by the academic community. The conference was organized by Helsinki University, the Department of Comparative Religion, and Jyväskylä University, the Department of Communication.
Themes of the plenaries:
- Western Media Facing Otherness, chair Hannele Koivunen
- Sacred Technology, chair Ari Heinonen
- Global Media Ethics, chair Reijo Heinonen
Theme of the public panel discussion:
- Religion and Terrorism, chair Robert Dannin
Themes of the sessions:
This page is last up-dated: 7.8.2003.