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BRICS and global strategic communication

The chapters in the third part of the book largely focus on the soft-power communication aspects of the five nations. Contributors explore various dimensions and manifestations of the soft power of the BRICS nations. The chapters analyse the different and distinct approaches adopted by BRICS governments and corporations, to promote their respective strategic communication in a media globe which continues to be dominated by the US-version of what constitutes soft power.

Joseph Straubhaar, who has spent a lifetime studying Brazil while based at the University of Texas in Austin, argues in his chapter that the commercial cultural industries in television and music have been crucial in promoting Brazil globally. Particularly important, he points out, are the telenovelas, watched around the world. The role of successive Brazilian governments in promoting entertainment is highlighted as an example of embedded synergies between private media and communication interests and foreign policy.

Russian soft power is discussed by Dmitry Gavra and Elena Bykova -from St. Petersburg State University - examining it within a historical context and exploring the roles of art, literature and music, as well as education in Russian soft-power discourses. The primacy of culture is also central to the chapter on the Indian soft power by Daya KishanThussu.Taking a historical perspective, he argues that the soft power of ancient civilizations such as India needs to be historicized. Emphasizing the importance of traditional cultures and faiths, the chapter relates India’s culture to its large diaspora and popular entertainment.

Cinema and entertainment are also the focus of the chapter on Chinese soft power by Ying Zhu, currently based at Hong Kong Baptist University, and Michael Keane, a prolific writer on Chinese media-related issues, based at Curtin University in Australia. Their chapter provides a new perspective on Chinese cultural power (manifest in cinema, diaspora and digital communication) and, in the process, help balance the news and current affairs aspects of most academic and policy studies of Chinese soft power. The last chapter in this part, by Herman Wasserman and Musawenkosi Ndlovu from the University of Cape Town evaluates the rise and decline of the soft power of South Africa within the continent. South Africa has been a major media power in Africa, for decades but, they argue, with the availability of competing material from across the world and the growth of local media content, the influence of South African transnational media, and the country’s soft power, has diminished.

BRICS and changing communication practices

While the previous two parts of the book look at media in individual BRICS countries, the final part of the book takes a pan-BRICS perspective to analyse journalism, entertainment and the key issues surrounding cyber communication. The chapter byjyotika Ramaprasad from the University of Miami and Svetlana Pasti from Tampere University, is based on extensive empirical research they undertook while editing a volume on journalism in BRICS countries, a pioneering project in itself (Pasti and Ramaprasad, 2017).The authors argue for a ‘localization’ approach to the historical legacies and current dynamics of journalism, looking specifically at journalists’ beliefs about their roles and professionalism, as well as the ftinctions of journalism in their respective countries. The contribution by Tatu Laukkanen and liris Ruoho, also both based at Tampere University, examines how screen entertainment - films and television drama - has been transformed in the postliberalization era in Brazil, Russia, India and China.The study of popular media in a comparative manner, for example, the ‘nationalist blockbuster’, particularly popular in China and Russia, provides valuable inputs to internationalizing communication studies in an approach they call ‘BRICS as method’ - an interpretive framework for thinking through the heterogeneous, multi-platform entity of entertainment of the BRICS countries.

The book ends with a future-oriented chapter by Daya Kishan Thussu, which aims to contextualize the framing of a new communication order within a global cyberspace being consistently contested among the major powers. The chapter argues that although in terms of its infrastructure, economics and governance, the

Internet continues to be dominated by the US, this domination is being increasingly challenged by the BRICS countries. The chapter discusses this within five domains: infrastructure, commerce, regulation, weaponization and surveillance of cyber space, and the developmental dimensions of the Internet. In all five domains, the contributions of the BRICS nations are delineated. This is done with the thematic of‘de-Americanizing’ the Internet, a process in which the BRICS nations are playing a crucial role, a reflection of their growing presence and assertiveness related to global cyber-issues, despite strong divergences and some convergences within the group.

This edited collection, following the publication of two other related books -Mapping BRICS Media (Nordenstreng and Thussu, 2015) and BRICS Journalism: Non- Western Media in Transition (Pasti and Ramaprasad, 2017) - both brought out in Routledge’s Internationalizing Media Studies series - is the culmination of a four-year pioneering research project (2012-2016) to study media in the BRICS nations funded by the Finnish Academy (see https://research.uta.fi/brics). It is hoped that this collection will be a significant addition to ongoing debates about comparative communication research and thus contribute to the further internationalization of media and communication studies.

We want to express our profound gratitude to all academic and support staff involved in the project, and especially the contributors to this volume, which brings together distinguished scholars from BRICS nations and those with intellectual expertise about the countries discussed in the book. Our thanks are also due to Barry Gills, Head of Development Studies at Helsinki University, for writing the foreword for this volume, and we are extremely grateful to Liz Thussu for her professional input in the editing process. Finally, a special thanks to the senior editor at Routledge, Natalie Foster, who commissioned the series and patiently saw it through to publication with support from her excellent team, particularly Jennifer Vennail.

 
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