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Journalism Studies

For a Special Issue on

Reporting from precarious shelter: The practices, values, and epistemologies of exile journalism

Manuscript deadline
01 December 2023

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Johana Kotišová, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and University of Amsterdam
[email protected]

Yazan Badran, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
[email protected]

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Reporting from precarious shelter: The practices, values, and epistemologies of exile journalism

The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to a veritable exodus of journalists and media outlets from both countries fleeing political persecution and/or the war. A decade earlier, the Syrian uprising and grinding conflict in the country also led to the growth of a media sector based entirely in exile in Turkey and beyond. These are but two prominent examples of a growing transnational community of displaced journalists and media outlets that have continued to ply their trade—or have been established—in the (precarious) shelter of (internal or external) exile. Cases from Ukraine and Syria to Burma and Zimbabwe highlight the complex and multifaceted roles played by such exile journalism in contemporary contexts—as mediators in their own right, but also as important nodes in the broader ecosystem of foreign reporting.

The condition of exile—in which the political aspect of displacement is accentuated—has long been seen to shape specific imaginaries and practices of cultural and knowledge production (whether in academia, cinema, or indeed, journalism). Exile’s intersection with journalism, despite its ubiquity throughout the history of the profession, has attracted only scarce attention in the scholarship. Moreover, much of that literature has tended to theorize journalism in exile as an extension of activism or partisan practices, and more broadly approached exile journalism as the marginalised, exotic Other. But if the cases above show us anything, it is that that lens is woefully inadequate in understanding the practices, values, and epistemologies of exile journalism. Particularly as both the concrete condition of exile and the field of journalism have been deeply destabilised by rapid technological change, evolving regimes of (im)mobility and the emergence of new forms of transnational solidarities and networks.

This special issue seeks to fundamentally shift the boundaries of the study of exile journalism and to establish new ways of engaging with this complex field, not least because focusing on exile journalism can serve as a source of inspiration for journalism and its studies more broadly. To produce knowledge with limited first-hand access to their sources and contexts they cover, and to reach their audiences at home and abroad, exile journalists need to be epistemologically creative. Indeed, they often become early adopters of new media technologies and quick in integrating them into their (networked) practices, routines, and organisational models. We thus aim to bring exile journalism into the core of our field as a space of professional – namely, epistemological, and technological – innovation and experimentation. Moreover, we see exile journalism as an extreme case of the nexus between emotions and journalistic practice where journalists cannot easily perform the detached and value-less role traditionally expected of them, and often have intense ties to other actors, such as emigré politicians or activists. This special issue thus seeks to go beyond an a priori dismissal of the experience of involvement in what journalists write about (a conflict, a political crisis) as a danger to (or failure of) journalism, towards a more in-depth understanding of the implications and practices arising from such conditions. Studying such journalistic practices can bring journalism
research closer to what Barbie Zelizer has called real existing journalisms in the world: in this case, openly value-laden, emotion-driven, corporeal, engaged, and legitimately goal-oriented kind of journalism practice characterized by porous boundaries with activism/politics.

Towards that aim we seek contributions that specifically interrogate contemporary exile journalism and the situated (and varied) practices, values, and epistemological frameworks that evolve in that context. We invite contributors from a variety of geographical contexts, and we are open to different methodological approaches including creative and mixed methodologies. We welcome theoretical, conceptual, as well as empirical contributions. We also welcome diverse conceptual and theoretical approaches, including political-economic perspectives and approaches that develop the exile-journalism nexus by integrating knowledge from other disciplines, such as postcolonial studies, cultural and political geography, refugee studies, sociology of migration, anthropology and law, as well as critical perspectives in international relations and conflict studies. In particular, we are interested in intersectional perspectives on how the variety of identities and subject positions (background, host country, ethnicity and race, gender, class, sexuality and/or religious believes) shape exile journalists’ professional practices and the experience of exile, and what diverse layers of precarity exile journalists need to negotiate. Finally, recognising the need to strengthen the historical dimension of the study of journalism, we also welcome contributions on past episodes of exile journalism that seek to historicise these experiences and their role in the development of our understanding and theorisation of (exile) journalism.

Novel approaches to exile journalism we expect could potentially include, but are not limited to, topics such as:

  • Journalistic and knowledge-building practices in exile journalism;
  • Values, norms and professional ideology of exile journalists as well as the boundary work and boundary deconstruction performed by them;
  • Emotional labour and the affective epistemology of exile journalists;
  • Political economy of exile journalism focused on how exile journalists deal with the precarity and uncertainty related to funding, innovations, and sustainability models in exile journalism;
  • Exchanges between mainstream journalism in the Global North and exile journalism; exile journalism as a site of innovation, hybridity, and experimentation.