Hegemonic Constructions of the Other

Ethnographies in Mediated and Archival texts

Chair: Jukka Jouhki (jukka.jouhki(at)jyu.fi)

A group of people, whether a culture, society, nation, or ethnic group, is always to some extent an imagined entity that owes part of its existence to a shared discursive or narrative process. Such process stems from both the inside and the outside of the group, producing hegemonic and counter-hegemonic views categorizing, classifying, describing and defining the group to suit a particular world view. Cultures and societies are always heterogeneous, escaping exhaustive descriptions. Thus, to describe a group requires discursive selection and narrative generalization to become meaningful, relevant and digestible to the interlocutors. This process usually relies on a shared narrative tradition about the group in question. As all descriptions of cultures are bound to fall short of the lived realities, this work group analyzes descriptions of cultures and groups of people in mediated and/or archival texts and contemplates the choices that are made in the process of constructing a culture. What are the discursive techniques used in describing the ”other” or ”us” in printed media or archival collections? What kind of ethnographies emerge when the media, the state or other organizational entities categorize people? What is the researcher’s role in analyzing these categories?




Sanni Björn

Department of History and Ethnology, University of Jyväskylä


India Fighting with itself: Discourses on Naxalites in Indian Media

In India there is a complicated and chronic conflict – armed as well as rhetorical – between the state and the Naxalite insurgency. For many, the Naxalites represent long-awaited saviours fighting for the historically marginalised tribal people often termed Adivasi but for at least as many they are reckless Maoist rebels, a ”Red Menace” and a criminal group that has to be eradicated by force. Discourses such as the ones on Naxalites construct a social reality. A discourse represents agents in a certain manner, and contains an ideology. Therefore the objective of discourse analysis is to analyse the text in relation to the conventions and power relations existing in society. In this paper I am interested in seeing how media representations of Naxalites define them. Who is a Naxalite? What is a Naxalite?  Are Naxalites terrorists, activists or extremists? The way Naxalites are discussed in India and elsewhere is highly relevant because ultimately the discourses affect public policy and through that, the lives of the people within and affected by the Naxalite movement. To analyze the discourses about Naxalites I will discuss articles of Times of India spanning over three years from 2010 to 2012. I will also reflect on my own position as a researcher in the representational universe revolving around Naxalites.


Jukka Jouhki

Department of History and Ethnology, University of Jyväskylä


Ignoring the Other: Banal Occidentalism in Helsingin Sanomat

The word “Western” is often used to describe a certain way of thinking or acting, a society or culture, or particular ideological formations. “Western society” is an imagined community connoting a unified cultural area characterized by cultural elements such as liberal thinking, economic progress, scientific worldview or democracy. However, the term is often used merely to demarcate a global phenomenon in question to exclude the part of the world that is not meaningful to the “Western” speaker (or listener). The use of the word “Western” in different contexts thus creates a “Western society,” imagined to be a collective enjoying a significant level of homogeneity. In the news, such an Occidentalist discursive technique is often applied for several reasons. Either the author 1) does not have information about the “non-Western” world in the case of the subject matter, 2) the author experiences the “non-Western” world as irrelevant and thus excludes it from the text, or 3) the author knowingly or unknowingly wants to buttress the imagined Western community and thus emphasizes the Westerness of the phenomenon. In this paper, the third kind of discursive technique, or what I call “banal Occidentalism” will be analyzed by focusing on samples in the leading Finnish national newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat in 2013. Also, the challenge of a “Western” researcher analyzing discourse about “Western society” will be discussed.