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Journal of Multicultural Discourses

For a Special Issue on

Media Discourses of Poverty in the Global South: When Subaltern voices speak about social exclusion and inequality

Abstract deadline
16 June 2024

Manuscript deadline
15 October 2025

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Jairo Alfonso Lugo-Ocando, University of Sharjah
[email protected]

Mohamed Ben Moussa, University of Sharjah
[email protected]

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Media Discourses of Poverty in the Global South: When Subaltern voices speak about social exclusion and inequality

Poverty is an omnipresent reality in daily life, extending from the outskirts of the most affluent corners of Dubai to the most impoverished slums in Mumbai (Abel & Lewis, 2015; Behrendt, 2018; Saied, 2016; Sen, 1983). Despite marked progress acknowledged by international organizations and agencies in reducing global poverty over recent decades, hundreds of millions of people continue to live under the utmost deplorable conditions. Simultaneously, social, and economic inequalities are on the rise across the globe with broad agreement that it has become one of the most pressing issues in society.

Traditionally, poverty has been viewed mostly through economic lenses, indicating insufficient income to meet basic needs, and often measured against an absolute international poverty line (Jolliffe and Prydz, 2016). However, contemporary scholars challenge this interpretation, advocating for a more sociological and relative understanding of poverty. This approach takes into consideration prevailing norms and conditions within a specific society, measuring poverty by the level of inclusion/exclusion of individuals vis-à-vis these norms (Reeves et al., 2019). Furthermore, scholars contest the representation and articulation of poverty in policy evaluations and mainstream media, which are increasingly influenced by neo-liberal ideology and discourse (Hay & Ouellette, 2008; Barton & Davis, 2018). They argue for moving beyond the narrow definition of poverty based solely on material income to examine the interconnectedness between diverse forms of socioeconomic inequalities, shedding light on how poverty intertwines with human rights (Mbajiorgu & Odeku, 2022), public health (Zhou et al., 2022) mental health (Hawkins et al., 2020), climate change (Hallegatte et al., 2020) and sustainable development (Wang et al., 2021).

Research studies have also underscored the pivotal role that media play in shaping public understanding of poverty, revealing strong correlations between media frames and discourses and public awareness and perception of poverty (Vossen & Schulpen 2019; Taşbaşı, 2016). These narratives commonly propagate the notion that disparities between the affluent and impoverished stem from individual values, work ethic, and meritocracy. Consequently, mainstream media discourse advocates for solutions to structural inequalities centered on increased individual effort and austerity measures for those marginalized from societal wealth (Harjuniemi & Ampuja, 2018). This hegemonic neo-liberal framing of poverty places undue blame on impoverished individuals, leading to stigmatization (Dobson, 2019). Moreover, charitable responses to poverty are often depicted as means to restore dignity rather than address underlying societal and economic disparities (Kuskoff et al., 2022). Such narratives significantly influence social and economic policies, legitimizing the use of digital surveillance tools to monitor social assistance recipients (Dobson, 2019).

While most studies have looked at the way discourses and narratives about poverty are articulated in the mainstream media in the North (Golding and Middleton, 1982; Clawson and Trice, 2000; Franklin, 2002; Fox, 2016; Harkins and Lugo-Ocando, 2017; Connor, 2021), not enough has been done to examine the way the media in the Global South reports and covers poverty (Lugo-Ocando, 2020). In this field, some research has been carried out in regions and countries in the South, predominantly have looked at how the mainstream commercial media reports on these matters (Abril, 2008; Azcorra, 2009; de Melo Resende et al., 2017; Lugo-Ocando, 2020), while some studies have looked at the actors and individuals who are the center of these coverage and how they interact with the media while shaping narratives (Awad, 2014, 2022). Few studies have also focused on the representation of poverty in the media campaigns produced by international organizations and relief agencies, noting how people living in a state of poor in developing countries are predominantly depicted as being helpless, hopeless, and lacking agency (Nathanson, 2013; Yehya and Dutts, 2015).

There is still a substantial amount of research that needs dissemination, particularly coming from the Global South itself around the discourses relating to poverty and inequality. Questions remain to be comprehensively answered, such as: What are the characteristics of the discursive regime on poverty in those parts of the world? What types of narratives on poverty are prevalent in the Global South? How does the interplay between poverty, exclusion, and power shape the news reporting of poverty and overall representation in the media? What are the commonalities and differences in the language and narratives used between those in the South and comparatively North-South?

Potential topics and subjects

For this Special Issue, the guest editors invite contributions that traverse disciplinary boundaries, engaging in critical inquiry into the construction and articulation of discourses and narratives on poverty and inequality within the public media spaces of the Global South. We seek to publish works examining traditional legacy media as well as new digital natives, including social media platforms and other media spaces. Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Discourses of poverty and social exclusion in the media in the Global South
  • Representations and debates on inequality in media spaces
  • Intersectional discourses on poverty, environment, and migration
  • Social media platforms and poverty in the Global South
  • Representations of poverty in films and television
  • New media technologies and poverty discourses
  • Visual representation of poverty in the Global South
  • Digital media inequalities and reproduction of poverty
  • Class and ideology in the discourses on poverty
  • Algorithm recommendation systems and curation of discourses on poverty
  • Media/journalism ethics and the representation of poverty in the Global South

Submission Instructions

  • Authors are requested to indicate if their submissions address the special call.
  • Authors must adhere to the journal’s guidelines.
  • To be considered for the special issue, please submit an abstract of 250 words along with author biographies of 100 words by June 16, 2024.
  • Potential authors will be invited to participate in an online seminar that will be held in January 2025
  • Successful authors must submit full articles (up to 7000 words) by May 16, 2025.
  • There are no submission fees, publication fees, or page charges for this journal

Abstract submissions and inquiries should be addressed to Jairo Alfonso Lugo-Ocando and Mohamed Ben Moussa at [email protected]

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