Lunchtime Colloquium: Wazhmah Osman

Speaker(s): Center for Media at Risk

“The Dangers of Exaggerating Cultural Difference Between Countries in the News”

About the Talk

Anthropologists and journalists are both in the business of representing people from other parts of the world, yet they are rarely in dialogue. Anthropology has a long history of exploring the notion of culture and the ethics and politics of representation, especially amongst native, immigrant, subaltern and/or revisionist anthropologists. They have deconstructed cultural difference to show its colonial epistemological baggage and how it is predicated on creating self/other binaries that maintain hierarchies of power and civilizational superiority and have provided strategies to avoid essentializing and generalizing about cultures different than our own.

Likewise, new scholarship in journalism has endeavored to grapple with the crises in journalism and offer a more democratic path forward. In this talk, Wazhmah Osman asks what can journalists, especially international journalists and foreign correspondents, and anthropologists learn from each other. In particular, Osman will examine the ways that western media have inaccurately “othered” Afghans in regards to their gender/sexuality practices.

About the Speaker

Wazhmah Osman is an Afghan-American filmmaker and Associate Professor in the Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University, where her research is rooted in feminist media ethnographies focused on the political economy of global media industries and the regimes of representation and visual culture they produce.

In her book Television and the Afghan Culture Wars: Brought to You by Foreigners, Warlords, and Activists (University of Illinois Press, 2020), she analyzes the impact of international funding and cross-border media flows on the politics of Afghanistan, the region and beyond.

She is also the co-director of the 2007 documentary Postcards from Tora Bora and co-author of the forthcoming book Afghanistan: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University). Osman regularly works with community and activist groups, and her commentary can be found in outlets including Democracy Now, NPR and Al Jazeera. She is a visiting scholar with the Center for Media at Risk for the 2023-24 academic year. 

Event details

Annenberg School for Communication | Room 300