Media and Ethnic Conflict

History 103B.005

Fall 2006
Instructor (text): 
140 Barrows
Day & Time: 
Tu 2-4

This course provides general knowledge of the historical development of the media in connection with problems of ethnicity. It discusses issues of journalistic practice connected with this particular area. It gives students an in-depth understanding of the way media have participated in recent ethnic conflicts and shaped perceptions of it, both locally and abroad. It examines in particular detail the role of media in the wars of Yugoslavia, and deals also with the Middle East and Rwanda. It compares contemporary ways of dealing with ethnic issues in selected countries, and provides tools and methods for assessing media performance. It concentrates particularly on print media.

Students will learn how media have influenced the formation and perception of ethnicity in 19th and 20th century Europe. They will study the development of recent ethnic conflicts and the role played in them by the media. They will acquire basic skills for media coverage assessment, for tracking down bias, and for setting realistic expectations for coverage. They will get hands-on experience in scrutinizing text, and in producing copy of their own. Through studies of media they are familiar with, they will learn how their own perception of issues might have been influenced by media coverage.

The course will begin with a historical presentation of the development of ethnic media in 19th century Europe, and will continue with a general discussion of principles of professional journalism and their application to issues of ethnicity and ethnic conflict. From there it will proceed to examine in some detail three contemporary cases of such conflict, and the role played by both local and international media: the Middle East, Rwanda and the Balkans. An in-depth study of this latter case, both due to the abundance of literature on it and the lecturer's personal experience of it, will constitute the principal part of the course. A special session will deal with practical issues: students will role-play the editorial boards of two media involved on opposing sides of a conflict, produce copy, edit, and compare results. The course will wind up in the presentation of case studies, dealing either with particular issues of media and ethnicity drawn from the experience of the student's own countries, or with particular issues (sourcing; pros and cons of assigning ethnic reporters etc.) which would have elicited their interest. Students will be requested each to produce both a report on readings and a case study, one of those, at their discretion, being the main term paper.

Konstanty Gebert is not an expert on media, but a working journalist, who over the last dozen years has covered ethnic conflict i.a. in the Balkans and in the Middle East.