In this week’s readings, the authors discuss the precarious notion of “global television” or global media, broadly. The existence of such a field of inquiry is unstable precisely because its conceptualization depends on glue-ing together two already troubled terms: “global” and “television.” In this post, I will focus on Shanti Kumar’s “Is There Anything Called ‘Global Television Studies’" because she frames the problem of global TV from a postcolonial studies perspective. Although she does not strive to provide an answer for what “global television is” (which does not seem to be the central concern of any of the authors), Kumar does seem invested in articulating why a “global television” approach—or perhaps method—might be important to pursue. For Kumar, a key issue to address within “global television studies” is what she describes as the “question of incommensurability in the civilizational dialogues” (137). This seems to describe the “fantasy” of a peaceful exchange of knowledge production between the “West” and the “East” or “global south” that is always inherently unequal. She cites the East-West Center established by the US Congress in the 1960s in Hawaii as a prime example in which an endeavor to “decenter” the West counterintuitively re-installs the epistemological rubrics of the “West”/ “Global North.”
Then, what is the point of a global approach to television studies? Kumar puts it quite succinctly in the end of her piece:
“The point is that the discipline of global television studies is at once necessary and impossible: necessary because only global studies of television will reveal the multiplicity of television cultures that is critical for fighting the universalizing tendencies in Western discourse; impossible because any global study of television in the current geopolitics of international communication necessarily means an unequal discourse” (151).
In this sense, global television studies should be dynamic rather than static, disciplinarian, or authoritative. It is fractured even as it attempts to cohere as a category to affirm, extend, or complicate. But, her solution is not to uncritically embrace the anti-disciplinarity of such a field. Rather, she critiques any false notion of interdisciplinarity that global television scholars might hold onto and, instead, urges scholars to accept its disciplinary tendencies and extend them to its “dialogical limits” (151). I do wonder what the limits are for this type of “participatory” process if most of it takes place within the US university. Is a US-centric perspective inevitable even as we attempt to destabilize such a perspective? I am thinking about our viewing of Prisoners of War, and even when the TV show was introduced, it was framed as the show that inspired Homeland. Even before the show began, there was an impulse to use familiar US-reference points to give language to the Israeli show. What, then, are other ways to position Prisoner of War as a piece of global television? Does it require referencing other Israeli television? Does it include illuminating the globality of the screen content of Prisoners of War? I am left with many of these “practical” questions after reading Kumar’s wonderful piece.