- The performance of cultural citizenship: audiences and the politics of multicultural television drama
- Critical Studies in Media Communication
- Volume | Issue number
- 27 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA)
Popular culture has been suggested as an important resource for the performance of cultural citizenship (Hermes, 2005; Morley, 2006). In this paper, we address this suggestion by investigating how multicultural television drama may be used to build connections and strengthen civic culture in multicultural societies. We base our argument on a large study of audience reactions to the provocative Dutch multicultural reality show WestSide (AT5, 2006) that was explicitly designed to foster intercultural understandings and tolerance. Results showed that most viewers deployed a limited set of repertoires to make sense of the show. In so doing, however, they sometimes touched on political issues. Within specific circumstances, this led to the performance of cultural citizenship. Our analysis suggests that emotional involvement in multicultural drama may lead to discussions of dilemmas surrounding the role of cultural difference in the everyday lives of viewers. Based on these findings, we define the performance of cultural citizenship as an "insurgent" practice which requires further mediation into other spheres of private and public life by policies or civic action to produce critical societal impact. Furthermore, we suggest that care must be taken not to conflate the "active viewer" with the "active citizen"—even though the two may be related in some circumstances.
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