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British journalists, British Muslims: Using ethnography to push beyond the frame of Islamophobia

Munnik, Michael ORCID: 2012. British journalists, British Muslims: Using ethnography to push beyond the frame of Islamophobia. Presented at: Media, Religion and Culture, Eskisehir, Turkey, 8-12 July 2012.

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The question of the engagement of Muslims in the West with the mainstream media highlights both the specific relationship between Islam and the media and the wider dynamic of people motivated by religion and the notionally secular, pluralist media. In Britain, much social research on Islam and the media has problematized representation – how Muslims are viewed and presented, and the degree to which Islamophobia is a factor in media accounts or even valid as an operational term. My paper will show how this analysis typically stops at the point of conflict – how the media misrepresent Muslims, placing them outside of the mainstream society. However, researchers such as Meer and Modood (2009) have sought to push beyond this frame of representation and Islamophobia, considering whether and how engagement with Muslims as journalists and as sources enriches the understanding of the local community as a whole as to its makeup and activity. In this paper, I will justify an ethnographic approach to media as a way to better understand how that engagement works. Much of the current research on media representations of Muslims in Britain employs content analysis, using familiar tactics to tease out the subtext from the text (e.g. Poole 2002, Richardson 2004, Morey and Yaqin 2011). Participant-observation will help us to understand not merely the product but the production of media accounts. As such, I will argue for scrutinising the relationships between journalists and sources (Gans 1980) and observing the impact those relationships have on decision-making within a newsroom – the pitching, assigning, editing, and producing of stories. One of the values of ethnography is that it challenges essentialized representations of subjects with data that highlights lived experience and diversity. Through this method, we can understand something of how journalists see Muslims as part of the community on which and to which they report; equally, it will provide a sense of the importance Muslims may attach to being reflected and included in the ongoing media conversation. I will propose this model for suggesting how media can avoid reinforcing divisions within society.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BP Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2022 09:24

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