Racism, Ethnicity and the Media in Africa: Reflections Inspired by Studies of Xenophobia in Cameroon and South Africa

Francis B. Nyamnjoh


This paper demonstrates the extent to which the media and belonging in Africa are torn between competing and often conflicting claims of bounded and flexible ideas of culture and identity. It draws on studies of xenophobia in Cameroon and South Africa, inspired by the resilience of the politicization of culture and identity, to discuss the hierarchies and inequalities that underpin political, economic and social citizenship in Africa and the world over, and the role of the media in the production, enforcement and contestation of these hierarchies and inequalities. In any country with liberal democratic aspirations or pretensions, the media are expected to promote national citizenship and its emphasis on large-scale, assimilationist and territorially bounded belonging, while turning a blind eye to those who fall through the cracks as a result of racism and/or ethnicity. Little wonder that such an exclusionary articulation of citizenship is facing formidable challenges from its inherent contradictions and closures, and from an upsurge in the politics of recognition and representation by small-scale communities claiming autochthony at a historical juncture where the rhetoric espouses flexible mobility, postmodern flux and discontinuity.

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