Media @ McGill

Aysha Mawani

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This dissertation is a theoretical and an empirical study about globalization, governance and its relationship to "cultural diversity", as its been operationalized by UNESCO. Specifically, I investigate cultural diversity as a "policy frame" (Rein and Schon 1993); I analyze its materialization as a media and communication governance priority and discuss whether it represents an adequate policy response to contemporary globalization.

Through an empirical analysis of a representative sample of normative documents - including, policies and their draft counterparts - introduced by UNESCO and subsequently adopted by its General Assembly between 2000 and 2010, as well as reports from this same time period on the substantive issues covered in these policy documents (e.g., the 2009 World Report on Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue), I tell-the-story of the emergence of cultural diversity as a policy frame in the global media and communication landscape.

The research problematic is guided by the following three questions: What is the UNESCO policy frame on cultural diversity? How is it characterized and what are its key assumptions? What's included and excluded within this frame? While I discuss all four priority pillars subsumed under cultural diversity at UNESCO, I focus primarily on that of the "diversity of cultural expressions". This pillar has received considerable attention over the last decade and is directly pertinent to media and communication policy. Next, I ask: How do the documents that embody this policy frame function and do they influence action (e.g., the development of new communication policies in the national and international domains)? In light of these findings, I then discuss: How does UNESCO's particular operationalization of cultural diversity and its use as a policy frame contribute to globalization and its governance? In so doing, I move to critically examine the politicization of cultural diversity in media policy, and discuss the corresponding implications.

In Chapter 1, I establish the theoretical and conceptual basis for my dissertation, and provide a literature review on both the notions of globalization and governance, drawing out their nuances. I critically discuss what is globalization, what is governance and how they are inter-related. I consider that globalization, following the work of other theorists, is not a single or all-encompassing condition. Rather, it is a development constituted by many evolving and contrasting realities (Sassen 2006) that shape its evolution and its governance. In this regard, governance emerges as one of the pathways through which to intervene and direct contemporary globalization. It is at this point where I situate culture - and its governance through global media and communication policy (see Mansell and Raboy forthcoming; Raboy and Padovani 2010) - as a principal issue that has gained political and policy currency and which is increasingly at stake within a context of contemporary globalization. I set forth the research problematic and conclude by outlining the dissertation research questions.

In Chapter 2, I explain the research design and methodology of my dissertation. This dissertation is a qualitative case study in which I rely on two complementary methods: documentary analysis and participant observation. I analyze key UNESCO policy documents and reports that mobilize cultural diversity as a policy frame. Critically, I maintain that while there is widespread attention dedicated to recognizing the diversity of actors that populate the sphere of media and communication policy and governance activity, there remains comparatively little attention devoted to the role of documents in this sphere, save for their recognized role in policy processes and policy development and as contributions that affect end-result policy documents (see Raboy and Padovani 2010). With reference to an interdisciplinary selection of some of the leading scholarship on documentation (see Prior 2003; Riles 2006; Ahmed 2007), I move to consider the explicit treatment of documents themselves as dynamic actors within global media and communication policy. This enables consideration for a "politics of documentation" (Ahmed 2007) and suggests, among other features, that documents themselves materialize as more than simply "containers of content" (Prior 2003) within which are embedded actor-interest struggles. This account of the "document" is fleshed out in Chapter 2. My role as a participant observer within civil society through the "U40 Network on Cultural Diversity" provides a complementary perspective to my analysis of documents. This latter role has enabled me to probe, in specific institutional settings, how documents function, who uses them, for what purpose, and how they use them.

The next chapter, Chapter 3, provides the contextual piece to my dissertation. I discuss UNESCO's global governance role in culture and communication, in relation to globalization. I focus on what UNESCO is, why it is worth studying and discuss its approach to culture. I outline key standard-setting activities in the realm of culture, and present a timeline of the major normative milestones achieved by the organization in the cultural domain. This is an important step as it sets the stage for my analysis in Chapter 4 in which I highlight moments of "progress" (Riles 2006: 80) through documents and through which the policy frame of cultural diversity begins to take shape.

Chapters 4 and 5 constitute the analytic core of my dissertation. In Chapter 4, I focus on the content of the documents, the actor-interest struggles embedded therein, and the resulting outcomes. In so doing, I am able to get at the power relationships at play within global media policy and the development and the cultural diversity policy frame in particular. In Chapter 5, I take my analysis one step further and attempt to "follow these documents around" (see Prior 2003; Ahmed 2007). Specifically, I consider the take-up of the policy frame of cultural diversity, as embodied through the documents, outside the umbrella of UNESCO. I select from a small sample of other UN institutions; national and regional ministries of culture; and civil society organizations to discuss what happens to these documents and the policy frame of cultural diversity: who takes up the documents and why? To what end?

In my conclusion, I discuss my findings and the implications of UNESCO's policy frame as a measure to influence the direction of contemporary globalization.


Ahmed, S. (2007) "You end up doing the document rather than doing the doing': Diversity, race equality and the politics of documentation", Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30 (4): 590-609.

Mansell, R., and Raboy, M., eds (forthcoming) "Introduction: Foundations of the theory and practice of global media and communication policy", The Handbook of Global Media and Communication Policy. London: Wiley Blackwell.

Prior, L. (2003) Using Documents in Social Research. London and Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Raboy, M., and Padovani, C. (2010) "Mapping Global Media Policy: Concepts, frameworks, methods", Special Issue of Communication, Culture and Critique on "Media Governance: New Policies for Changing Media Landscapes", 3 (2): 150-169.

Rein, M., and Schon, D. (1993) "Reframing policy discourse", in F. Fischer and J. Forester (eds) The Argumentative Turn in Policy Analysis and Planning. Durham: Duke University Press.

Riles, A. (2006) "[Deadlines]: Removing the brackets on politics in bureaucratic and anthropological analysis" in A. Riles (ed) Documents: Artifacts of Modern Knowledge. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, pp: 71-92.

Sassen, S. (2006) Territory, Authority, Rights:
From Medieval to Global Assemblages. Princeton: Princeton University Press.