On Media and Diseases of Diversity: Making Difference in U.S. News Coverage of Health

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15 April 2013 from 20:00 to 22:00 hrs
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Meertens Ethnology Lecture by Charles L. Briggs of the University of California, Berkeley

News coverage of health issues now competes with the Internet and new social media as major influences on health policy and popular conceptions of health and disease, seemingly democratizing access to health knowledge. Does media coverage ameliorate or exacerbate racial health ‘disparities’? Results from the U.S. component of a multi-country study suggest that media coverage racializes biological citizenship, both by turning whiteness into an unmarked projection of human biology that seems to transcend race and, in reports that focused on racialized subjects, by reproducing disparaging images of bodies of color and disorderly subjectivities. Health news thus helps reproduce racial hierarchies by projecting members of racial minorities as incapable of playing their assigned roles in the circulation and reception of authoritative health knowledge.

Charles L. Briggs

Charles L. Briggs is the Alan Dundes Distinguished Professor of Folklore in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley and currently a Fellow at the Lichtenberg-Kolleg, University of Göttingen. His publications include Learning How to Ask, Voices of Modernity (with Richard Bauman), and Stories in the Time of Cholera (with Clara Mantini-Briggs).