Carolyn M. Rouse "Mediated Populism: How media threatens modern democracies"

Departmental Seminar Series features Carolyn M. Rouse, Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology and the Director of the Program in African Studies at Princeton University, New Jersey, USA.

The seminar is followed by Informal gathering, at which refreshments are served. All are welcome!

Copyright: Princeton University


French diplomat and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville celebrated the role of media in Democracy in America, Vol. II (1840).  He argued that newspapers helped citizens develop a sense of common purpose, what Benedict Anderson would later call “imagined communities.” The American and European Enlightenment, and subsequent experiments in democracy, however, never anticipated social media, bots, nor cable, print, and online news sources heavily dependent on ratings for revenue. The result has been not a more informed or critically engaged public, but a profoundly misinformed public that has little patience to critically engage complex issues. Starting from my work studying African American religious media and racial empowerment, this talk focuses on how media studies in anthropology helps us think through this post-modern moment in journalism and politics. First, I use the example of how African American religious media humanized black Americans. Then I use contemporary examples to demonstrate why new media has become a space for de-humanization. Finally, I explore structuralist theories of language and myth (Claude Levi-Strauss), phenomenological theories of subjectification, and anthropological theories of tribe and identity to make sense of how new media is threatening Democracy.

Research profile

A professor of anthropology and African American studies who has taught at Princeton since 2000, Carolyn Rouse takes a wide-ranging approach to studying the production of inequality and why people accept the systems that uphold it. Professor Rouse focuses on four areas that undergird much of society: medicine, religion, education and Development. Professor Rouse is the author of Engaged Surrender: African American Women and Islam, Uncertain Suffering: Racial Healthcare Disparities and Sickle Cell Disease and Televised Redemption: Black Religious Media and Racial Empowerment. Her manuscript Development Hubris: Adventures Trying to Save the World examines discourses of charity and development and is tied to her own project building a high school in a fishing village in Ghana.

In addition to being an anthropologist, Rouse is also a filmmaker. She has produced, directed, and/or edited a number of documentaries including Chicks in White Satin (1994), Purification to Prozac: Treating Mental Illness in Bali (1998), and Listening as a Radical Act: World Anthropologies and the Decentering of Western Thought (2015). As an extension of her commitment and training in visual anthropology, in the summer of 2016 Professor Rouse created the Ethnographic Data Visualization Lab to work with students and colleagues on ways to visualize complex ethnographic data. Rouse has produced, directed, and/or edited a number of documentaries including Listening as a Radical Act: World Anthropologies and the Decentering of Western Thought (2015). Further information: anthropology(at)Princeton

Published Dec. 15, 2017 12:23 PM - Last modified Mar. 13, 2018 11:56 AM