The Center for Media at Risk Welcomes Inaugural Visiting Scholars

The Center for Media at Risk, directed by Professor Barbie Zelizer, is welcoming its inaugural visiting scholars this academic year: Wendy Chun (Simon Fraser University), Cherian George (Hong Kong Baptist University), and Ruth Ben-Ghiat (New York University).

A hub for practical and scholarly discussions of the global media environment, the Center for Media at Risk is devoted to fostering free and critical media practice and scholarship. The Center is committed to bringing awareness to the ways journalists and other media practitioners are working under increasingly threatening political conditions. The Center hosted limited programming during the 2017-2018 academic year, and officially launched last April.

Wendy Chun, a visiting scholar for the Fall semester, will become the Canada 150 Research Chair in New Media at Simon Fraser University in January. There she will be leading a group focused on digital democracies. The group’s main projects will include building desegregated networks, tackling abusive language online, and addressing fake news.

Previously Professor of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, Chun draws on varied academic history in her work. As an engineering student who went on to get a Ph.D. in English Literature, Chun believes in the power of interdisciplinary scholarship. Interdisciplinary collaboration, she says, “demands that we respect each other and each other’s disciplines.”

Chun is the author of three books, including her most recent: Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media (MIT Press 2016), and she is currently at work on her fourth. A recipient of 12 fellowships during her career, she won both a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Holtzbrinck Fellowship last year. Chun is a highly sought after speaker, having delivered over 120 invited talks in the last 10 years.

During her time at Annenberg, Chun is teaching a graduate course entitled “Critical Data Studies,” and she will present a colloquium on October 24 and a public lecture on November 20.

Cherian George, Professor of Media Studies and Director of the Centre for Media and Communication Research at Hong Kong Baptist University, is also a Fall 2018 visiting scholar. Drawing on a lifelong love of journalism — he started a newspaper as a child and later worked as a political reporter in Singapore — George is interested in censorship, media freedom, and hate propaganda.

He is the author of Hate Spin: The Manufacture of Religious Offense and its Threat to Democracy (MIT Press 2016) and four other books. He serves as the editor of Media Asia, writes on Singapore media and politics for several outlets, and is engaged in activist work related to media policy and reform. In addition, he and his sister produce What’s Up, an independent, monthly, current affairs newspaper for children; the publication is celebrating its 15th year.

George is currently collaborating with a cartoonist on a nonfiction graphic novel that investigates the censorship of political cartoons. Having always felt uncomfortable being placed in a box, he says this project is exciting because it crosses boundaries.

This semester, George is teaching a graduate course entitled “Censorship: A Global Survey.” He will present a public lecture on October 9 and a colloquium on November 28.

Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University, Ruth Ben-Ghiat will spend the Spring 2019 semester at Annenberg. She is an expert on fascism, authoritarianism, and visual propaganda, and she applies lessons from history to better understand and analyze current events of the modern world.

Ben-Ghiat is a cultural critic and political commentator, writing for outlets like The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and CNN, where she contributes a monthly column. In 2017, she wrote an article examining Fascist monuments and resurgent right-wing politics in Italy, which caused a national debate around fascism’s heritage. No stranger to being trolled, she faced criticism from 23 newspapers for her stance.

She is the author or editor of four books, with two book projects forthcoming. One of these, entitled Strongmen: How They Rise, Why They Succeed, How They Fall (W.W. Norton), examines how strongmen — both past and present — have used persuasion and violence to gain and retain power and why so many people are loyal to these types of leaders.

Next semester, Ben-Ghiat will teach a graduate course entitled “Propaganda and the Media in Dictatorships and Democracies.” In addition, she will present a colloquium on January 23 and a public lecture on March 26.

Welcome to all three visiting scholars!