Community media and conflict transformation: Taming ethnonationalist antagonism in Cyprus through agonistic representations of victimhood

Chris Voniati

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis

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Abstract

Focusing on the divided island of Cyprus and its clashing ethnonationalisms, this doctoral research explores how community media organisations (CMOs) represent (Cyprus conflict-related) victimhood, and whether these discursive (re-)constructions of ‘the victim’ can contribute to a shift from ethnonationalist antagonism to agonistic pluralism, facilitating thus conflict transformation and promoting an ethos of mutual recognition and non-violence. The theoretical vertebra of this project is in part provided by Chantal Mouffe’s theory of agonism (2005; 2013), according to which the transformation of conflict and the shift from antagonism to agonism requires the overcoming of the friend-enemy dichotomy, the acknowledgement of the humanness of the other and the development of democratic channels through which contest and difference between adversaries – rather than enemies – can be expressed. The theoretical framework was further strengthened by theoretical reflections on (media) representation, the construction of victimhood and community media theory. Methodologically, the research was divided into three stages. The first involved conducting an islandwide mapping of these below-the-radar CMOs that are active in Cyprus, which resulted to the identification of 26 of them, on both sides of the divide. The second research stage involved selecting six (out of the 26 identified) CMOs as case studies (Yin, 2014) and conducting a qualitative content analysis (Silverman, 2011; Matthews & Ross, 2010) of their victimhood-related published and broadcast material. Finally, the third research stage involved carrying out 36 semi-structured interviews with the six case studies’ producers, guests and coordinators. These 36 interview texts were analysed using the same qualitative content analysis method, in relation to the main topic of victimhood representation but also in the context of the participatory and democratic practices and policies of the CMOs. According to the findings, five out of the six CMOs analysed generate agonistic, conciliatory and conflict transformation-oriented representations of the victim subject position; these representations resist and deconstruct antagonistic and ethnocentric hierarchies of morality that portray the ingroup exclusively as pure and innocent and the other exclusively as responsible for wrongdoing, and ones that suggest that the harm and suffering of victims can function as a terrain for collective social struggles and agonistic transformation. A sixth CMO – whose democratic and participatory practices were understood to be limited and restricted to the (micro-) ingroup and to not expand to include members of the outgroup or of the wider ingroup – was shown to be an atypical case, for the reason that it reproduced mostly dominant antagonistic and ingroup-serving representations of victimhood.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Carpentier, Nico, Supervisor
  • Doudaki, Vaia, Supervisor, External person
Award date8 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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