"Modernization of Tradition": Contested Discourses and Negotiated Ideologies of Fairness, Gender, and Morality in the South Indian Media
KeywordsCritical discourse studies
Committee ChairGilmore, Perry
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation explored the ways in which the everyday life practices of most urban Indians embodied the "modernization of tradition" (Hancock, 1999) and the role that media texts played in facilitating and encouraging this modernization. The research is based on six months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted from June through December 2005, in the south-Indian city of Chennai, which has traditionally been regarded as a conservative city. Examining the Indian media as a discursive site where normative ideologies are not only constructed but also co-constructed, the study explored and examined how the discourses of tradition and modernity were contested in the south Indian media. It also identified and interpreted the ways in which dominant ideologies at the nexus of color/caste and gender/morality were negotiated by an urban city and its residents in the move towards modernity.Data included three different but inter-related sub-genres of print media texts -- visual images, textual advertisements, and news articles. The primary dataset of visual images consisted of 300 product advertisements culled from four, nationally available, English-language magazines gathered from the two genres of news and film. Textual data sets comprising the matrimonial advertisements and the news articles were gathered from the local editions of two nationally-available English-language newspapers. The broader ethnographic investigation included participant observations, individual formal and informal interviews, and focus group discussions with adult residents of Chennai. The data were analyzed using a multi-discursive and multidisciplinary approach. The analyses were informed by conceptual approaches which included: social semiotics and the multimodal theory of communication, genre analysis, critical discourse and feminist critical discourse analyses, and alternative modernities.In examining the media texts as the site where dominant sociocultural ideologies were being constantly configured and reconfigured, the analyses identified and examined the workings of three interconnected themes - fairness (in relation to skin color), gender, and morality. Through these themes, the dissertation examined the larger contestations and negotiations between the discourses of traditions and modernities as experienced by adult residents of urban Chennai. The discourses of identity construction and reconstruction were thus examined at the nexus of the individual self situated within the larger frame of the city.
Degree ProgramLanguage, Reading & Culture