Global Transmission and Local Consumption: Navajo Resistance to Mainstream American Television

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A common assumption maintains that the global outreach of mass media inevitably leads to deleterious consequences for native communities. Indeed, different scholars have argued that awareness of the outside world from television results in the homogenization of local cultures. However, images viewed through the electronic peephole radically transform not only an understanding of the outside world, but the way indigenes define themselves and their relationship to each other. By presenting subaltern audiences with an idealized other, television compels the emergence of an objectified self. “Who are ‘we’?” would not have been asked—or asked in the same way—were it not for the “Who are ‘they’?” necessitated by the introduction of television. In this article, I examine a particular group of subaltern viewers who reassign the roles of “self” and “other” in order to preserve, defend, and construct their own selfhood. Because they look and act differently from those in the mediated mainstream, Navajo television viewers create oppositional identities by understanding themselves first in relation to and then against standardized models. Resisting mainstream American television is a way of articulating experiences of powerlessness in a white-dominated society as well as a means of communicating a discourse of resistance to the dominant ideology.


Journal of International and Global Studies





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