This academic year, CNM is delighted to host Dr Raka Shome who joins us as a Visiting Senior Fellow. Dr. Shome writes on postcolonial cultures, transnational feminism, and media/communication cultures. Her current research interests are in Asian Modernities, Transnational relations of India, Racism and Media in a global context, Transnational Media Cultures and Gender, and the Transnational politics of knowledge production as a communication issue. Dr. Shome has published numerous articles and book chapters in leading journals and anthologies in the field of Media and Communication Studies. She is the author of Diana and Beyond: White Femininity, National Identity, and Contemporary Media Culture (University of Illinois Press, 2014)—a book that examines how new sets of postcolonial relations in contemporary western cultures are mediated through images of white femininity. Under her co-guest editorship, the first-ever special issue on “Postcolonialism” was published in the field of Communication Studies in the International Communication Association journal Communication Theory (August, 2002). She recently also guest edited a special issue on “Asian Modernities” (2012) in the (Sage) journal Global Media and Communication, which included several articles focused on the question of what it means to be “modern” outside of liberal western frameworks. She is finishing up another special issue as guest editor for Cultural Studies/Critical Methodologies journal on ‘Gender, Nation, Colonialism: Twenty first century connections.’ She will be giving a talk on Wednesday, 28 October at 3PM in the CNM Meeting Room.
Tell us a little about yourself – where you come from, what your research interests are and what brought you to NUS?
I am visiting from the United States. My current research interests are in the related areas of Media and Asian Modernities, transnational politics of knowledge production, Transnational feminism, Gender, Culture, and Migration, Transnational flows of mediated cultures (especially towards and within the Global South); New logics of postcoloniality; Cultural Studies (beyond the Birmingham framework). I was attracted to NUS because of the vibrant and exciting work being done on media, and cultural studies, within an Asian framework. And it is also a top university in the world –so I felt this exposure to a vibrant academic space in Asia would add a lot to my own current interests; so when I was offered this opportunity, I was delighted. Teaching students in Asia is exciting because one (if you are coming from the Western academy) necessarily has to rethink many of one’s frames for engaging culture and media —if you want to be transnationally responsive and responsible. In the past, I have held faculty appointments at London School of Economics and Political Science, Arizona State University, University of Washington and was an Endowed Visiting Chair at Villanova University.
What modules do you teach?
An undergraduate module–Philosophy of Communication and New Media– and was also scheduled to teach a graduate course on Technological Embodiments
What got you started on your research path and field of research?
My work broadly falls within Postcolonial Studies. My own experiences of cultural (and national) marginalization –when I arrived first as a student in the US, and then beyond that—led to my often finding solace– and more important explanations– in postcolonial studies.
What is your approach to research?
Interdisciplinary. The questions that usually inform my research traverse disciplinary boundaries, as they are broadly related to social justice. I work through an approach that is called ‘Cultural Studies.’
An aspiring researcher should….
Have passion for your work. The work should matter, think of your intellectual work not as a “job” but as a space through which you can perhaps make some changes–in people’s minds–towards a more humane world. A tall order to be sure, but hold on to that.
What are some issues/causes (could be outside your academic/professional interests) that you care deeply about?
I care about the fact–deeply–that today people are increasingly less educated–not just formal education, but less able to think critically about issues largely because we are constantly fed by so much information that there is rarely any access to deep knowledge; today there is an attitude that ‘ignorance is my birth right” and any opinion counts. I worry about how due to corporate media power, and what are offered to people in the name of ‘information’ results in a rapid decline in democracy in most places in the world today.
Tell us a little bit about your book ‘Diana and beyond….’
The book examines media images of celebrity white women, and focuses on how social scripts of white womanhood produces larger ideological structures of white femininity, that in Anglo dominant nations, that often function in the service of nationalism. The book examines a host of media images of celebrity white women–Diana of course, but others such as Angelina Jolie, Cherie Blair, Sandra Bullock, Victoria Beckham, and many others.
What are your thoughts on transnational relations and social media?
Social media such as Facebook, twitter, and so on, on the one hand enable certain transnational connections and hence transnational community formations. Yet, on the other hand, as these become regular everyday spaces of communication, we need to remember who does not have access to these spaces. We also need to recognize how social media –as data and information–is constantly used by data mining companies to categorize people and behaviours and needs. This can have serious implications not just for privacy but also for the ways in which the populations of the world can be categorized, codified and so on, through the “information” that social media makes available to the owners of the sites.
The modern Asian woman and feminism – almost there or a long way to go?
Every feminist movement–anywhere–has a long way to go. We need to stay away from the (western created) idea that somehow Asian women have a long way to go. The progress of women in Asia needs to be addressed in the CONTEXT of their societies. WE do not want to use western notions of progress and advancement to evaluate gender in Asian contexts.
When you are not researching or teaching you like to….
Watch movies–am a movie buff; love watching plays, and trying different cuisines, and traveling.
How has the Singapore experience been so far? Sights, food, history, post-colonial Singapore, culture, arts…?
Am loving it. It is a fascinating place. It is beautiful, and vibrant. I love the multiculturalism here. It is a very different, and in many ways, a more ‘progressive’ (if one can use the term) kind of multiculturalism than what you see in many western countries. Singapore also seems to be a wonderful meeting place for Asian and western cultural practices.
To know more about Dr Shome, her research and her publications visit http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/cnmsr/