About the Talk
In her book Television and the Afghan Culture Wars: Brought to You by Foreigners, Warlords, and Activists, Osman analyzes the impact of international funding and cross-border media flows on the national politics of Afghanistan, the region, and beyond. Fieldwork from across Afghanistan allowed Osman to record the voices of Afghan media producers and people from all sectors of society. Afghans offer their own seldom-heard views on the country’s cultural progress and belief systems, their understandings of themselves, and the role of international interventions. Osman looks at the national and transnational impact of media companies like Tolo TV, Radio Television Afghanistan, and foreign media giants and funders like the British Broadcasting Corporation and USAID. By focusing on local cultural contestations, productions, and social movements, Television and the Afghan Culture Wars redirects the global dialogue about Afghanistan to Afghans and thereby challenges top-down narratives of nation-building and human rights development.
Discussant: Deborah A. Thomas (University of Pennsylvania)
About the Speaker
Wazhmah Osman is an Afghan-American academic and filmmaker. She is an assistant professor in Media Studies and Production at Temple University. Her research and teaching are rooted in feminist media ethnographies that focus on the political economy of global media industries and the regimes of representation and visual culture they produce. In her recent work, she extends these critical inquiries to the politics of representation and visual culture of “The War On Terror” including gender/sexuality discourses and how they reverberate globally and locally. Osman endeavors to intervene on these subjects beyond academia. She has appeared as a commentator on Democracy Now, WNYC, NPR, and Al Jazeera and works with community and activist groups. Prior to starting her graduate studies, she worked in television and film production for major American and international media institutions and as an independent journalist and filmmaker. Her critically acclaimed documentary films have screened in diverse venues, ranging from human rights organizations to national and international film festivals.
Deborah A. Thomas is the R. Jean Brownlee Professor of Anthropology, and the Director of the Center for Experimental Ethnography at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also a Research Associate with the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre at the University of Johannesburg. Thomas is the author of Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation: Sovereignty, Witnessing, Repair, Exceptional Violence: Embodied Citizenship in Transnational Jamaica and Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization, and The Politics of Culture in Jamaica; and co-editor of the volume Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness. Her articles have appeared in a diverse range of journals including Cultural Anthropology, American Anthropologist, Radical History Review, Anthropological Theory, small axe, Identities, Interventions, and Feminist Review. Thomas has also co-directed and co-produced two documentary films: BAD FRIDAY: RASTAFARI AFTER CORAL GARDENS and FOUR DAYS IN MAY: KINGSTON 2010. Thomas is also the co-curator of a multi-media installation titled Bearing Witness: Four Days in West Kingston, which opened at the Penn Museum in November 2017. Thomas edited the journal Transforming Anthropology from 2007-2010, and currently sits on the editorial boards of Social and Economic Studies and Anthropological Theory. From 2016-2020, she was the Editor-in-Chief of American Anthropologist. She has served on the executive boards of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD), the Caribbean Studies Association, and the Society for Cultural Anthropology. Prior to Thomas’s life as an academic, she was a professional dancer with the New York-based Urban Bush Women.