I was deeply honored and delighted to be invited to give a talk on "Critical Media Effects, Islamophobia, and (De)Stigmatization" in the beautiful country of New Zealand hosted by CARE center as part of their Decolonizing Anti-Racist Interventions Series.
This is my first public talk where I shared a new framework that I have developed called "Critical Media Effects" along with Dr. Tayo Banjo (Ramasubramanian & Banjo, 2019). This framework connects media effects scholarship with critical communication theory through considerations of intersectionality, power, agency, and context. I applied this framework to Islamophobia in this particular talk by discussing the intersections of Whiteness, heteronormativity, and Christonormativity within media effects in the context of Muslim youth in U.S.
I shared research findings that show how negative media stereotypes influence anti-Muslim sentiments, which leads to lack of policy support for Muslims among non-Muslims. Additionally, our research with Muslim-Americans shows that greater exposure to negative news stories about them leads to lesser identification as American and also lowers their trust in the U.S. government (Saleem, Wojcieszak, Hawkins, Li, & Ramasubramanian, 2019). In terms of coping strategies, we find that Muslim youth preferred individual mobility and avoidance rather than collective action (Saleem, Yang, & Ramasubramanian, 2016; Saleem & Ramasubramanian, 2019). I also shared about the need to go beyond neoliberal multiculturalism towards anti-racism pedagogy (Ramasubramanian & Miles, 2018) through such efforts as Difficult Dialogues on Race Relations that brings community members together to discuss about racism (Ramasubramanian, Sousa, & Gonlin, 2017).
This was my first visit to New Zealand and I fell in love with the green and beautiful countryside. I really appreciated that my talk was held at the public library in Palmerston North, where community members could participate. It’s always so refreshing to have conversations with non-academics who care about these issues. In the past, I have shared my research in schools, mosques, temples, ashrams, and community health centers but this is my first talk in a public library. I was most humbled and honored to be welcomed in the Maori language at the start of my talk by PhD student Christine Elers. I appreciated the Q&A session after my talk about the relevance of anti-racism and anti-Islamophobia initiatives within New Zealand contexts.
The faculty and students at Massey University are doing amazing work on topics such as Maori health, refugee communities, postcolonial Maori perspectives on whiteness, and experiences of migrant nurses from South Asia in New Zealand. I hope my research team at Texas A&M University can get an opportunity to learn and collaborate with scholars at Massey University. It was heartening to note how the Moari culture, climate change, and environmental justice are discussed and prioritized quite a bit in New Zealand, though, I am sure there is always more work left to do.