Global Issues & Global News: How Vested Interests Won the Refugee Debate

In Australian (and global) media, the refugee issue is represented as a political one rather than a social one, which causes us as responders to the media to envision political parties, the
Print Media Re: Asylum Seekers

potential tax burden and potential changes to the economy (among others), often without stopping to consider the humanitarian factors. There are thousands of sick, starving and scared men, women and children who need our help, yet tis is not often covered in global news media.

In Global Media Apocalypse (2013), Lewis suggests that global media is infiltrating the minds of the developed-world audience, “limiting compassion” and “directing public opinion on race and exclusionism”. The greater media is preventing us from seeing the refugee issue from a humanitarian point of view through forging “a deep suspicion across the mediasphere”.

Lewis concludes that “the widespread ignorance” of human suffering can only be rectified through “improved political debate, government leadership and media commitment to more informed public discussion”; in essence, an extension of the public sphere and encouragement for aid.

The following news clip outlines the refugee situation in Australia and Indonesia (2013):

You’ll notice it has a strong focus on the politics of and between Indonesia and Australia, and consequently has very little to say about the humanitarian side, or indeed the asylum seekers themselves. Indonesia’s outrage at Australia turning back the boats was not motivated by Australia turning away people in need, but the fact that they were being sent to Indonesian soil. The media is completely missing the point of helping asylum seekers.

Paul Power
Paul Power, CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia

“When you analyse the media agenda on refugee policy, you see that, overwhelmingly, the media agenda follows the political agenda”

So what is the political agenda on refugees in Australia, you may ask. The same old “stop the boats” mentality has been with leading politicians since the Howard Government’s reign. Rather than focusing on helping these people, we concentrate on sending them away. After all, if they’re not on our soil, they’re not our problem – right?

Although it has satirical intentions, the above film clip is an accurate representation of the Australian Government’s mentality in ‘dealing with’ the refugee situation.

It is safe to say that the global media is often guilty of putting a political (or otherwise) spin on humanitarian or social issues. We as an audience need to remember that under the politicians, scientists, news crews and cameras, refugees are human beings, who suffer from factors outside of their control. It should be the responsibility of the global media to represent this issue more accurately and with more empathy.

Do any of you identify as refugees? Did you, or your families, escape terror and flee to Australia (or another country) by boat? I’m going to assume the majority answer would be ‘no’.  The only taste we, as a western audience, usually get of these issues comes from the global media.

A refugee camp
A refugee camp

Therefore the media needs to remove vested interests from its investigation and representation of global issues in order expose and correct them more effectively and efficiently in society.


Lewis, J 2013, Global Media Apocalypse: Pleasure, Violence and Cultural Imaginings of Doom, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, NY, United States.

Fair Dinkum Bodgy: International Education in Australia

Students from all corners of the earth travel to Australia in search of a high-quality education. In 2013 alone, 526 932 international students were enrolled in Australian education programs, 231 186

Poster advertising study in Australia
Poster advertising study in Australia

of which were in tertiary institutions (source). In theory, this experience should provide both domestic and international students the opportunity to grow in terms of flexibility, empathy and critical thinking, however critics such as Simon Marginson explore how phenomena such as parochialism, ethnocentrism and struggles to keep up with  nonsensical Aussie lingo, make it difficult for this to occur.

Parochialism can be defined as the narrowness or inflexibility of views. In this instance, it refers to the way in which Australians – university students in particular – are “not interested” (Marginson 2012) in opening their minds and really making an effort to break down hypothetical cultural barriers that exist between themselves and international students. Kell and Vogl also touched upon this point, noting that many of the international students surveyed felt Australians were reluctant to get to know them;

Australians can appear ambivalent, distant and disinterested in international students and foreigners in general (Kell & Vogl 2006)

This relates to the idea of ethnocentrism, in which one nation or culture believes itself to be superior to another. This could account for the ignorance of Australian students in embracing new cultures and the students within them.

But is this view explored by Kell & Vogl and Marginson really the case? I spoke with an Australian-born university student, of Chinese Descent, who explained how she struggled socially because the local students assumed she was international, and the international students were unwilling to mix with her because they knew she was a local. This suggests that the paradigm of education-related prejudice is multi-directional; is it possible that International students – for whatever reason – are just as unwilling to mix with domestic Australian students?

Another reason for a struggle of unity between domestic and international students proposed by Kell and Vogl is the difficulty in understanding Australian slang. Foreign students usually learn

academic English in their home countries and not colloquialisms, which are vital to communicating with the average Australian university student.

“a basic working knowledge of informal Australian English is … linked to the connection they (international students) make with the broader Australian community: (Kell & Vogl 2006)

Although recognising a stubby from a swagman may not, at first glance, seem important knowledge for a foreign student coming to Australia, this research suggests otherwise, and various initiatives have been born to help foreign students induct into Australian culture.

Let’s use the international programs on offer at the University of Wollongong as examples. The Global Communicators Program (GCP) was constructed to help international and domestic students connect, learn and share one another’s cultures. This is a positive tool or

Photo of a UOW GCP meeting
Photo of a UOW GCP meeting

building international relationships. Various clubs and societies exist also, such as the Korean Student Association, which exists not only to support Korean UOW students, but to offer insight into Korean culture, language and food for domestic students also. Although programs such as these raise the potential for cultural competence, both domestic and international students are required to make significant effort.

I myself see plenty of international students on campus at UOW who travel in groups of people who share their language and culture. I believe this creates a significant barrier. Yes, if I were on exchange in a foreign country, I admit I would seek out other students familiar with my language and culture, but I still think it’s a two-way street. If domestic students are expected to make more of an effort with international students, international students should make more of an effort with domestic students. Only then, I think, will cosmopolitanism (think unbiasedness and a high value of diversity) or ‘citizenship of the world’ be achieved on all fronts.

Claire 🙂


Kell, P and Vogl, G (2007) ‘International Students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes’,  Everyday Multiculturalism Conference Proceedings, Macquarie University, 28-29 September 2006.

Marginson, S (2012) ‘International education as self-formation: Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience’, Lecture delivered at the University of Wollongong, 21 February 2012

Harry Potter and the Prisoners of Transnational Film

Harry Potter Actors make their mark on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Harry Potter Actors make their mark on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

For decades film has been seen as vital to nation-building. A country’s identity was claimed by the cinema it produced. As such, countries competed to lead the film industry. Up until World War I, France dominated  world film production (source). However, by the 1930’s, 80% of films screened around the world had roots in Hollywood (Harvard Business Review), thus the cinema being showcased promoted and popularised American culture. More recently, there has been a paradigm shift from national cinema to transnational cinema. As a result, these films have been seen by some as effectively barricading cultural representation in film. This blog will look at the idea of

US Flag Around the Earth --- Image by ©
US Flag Around the Earth — Image by ©

transnational film as a tool for disintegrating culture, then use the Harry Potter film franchise to demonstrate how this may not be the case.

Transnational cinema blends elements of multiple nationalities, often making it difficult to recognise the nation in which a film originated =. This has caused fears of cultural homogenisation (a reduction in cultural diversity, often leading to the view that Americanisation is taking place). For example, the Chinese Government has strict film censorship guidelines which regulate the number and content of international films being screened in China, in order to protect the Chinese culture from potential Hollywood corruption.

The Hollywood Sign
The Hollywood Sign

But are Hollywood films really that American? It has been argued that much of Hollywood cinema is culturally non-specific and therefore represents no particular culture.

For example, the Harry Potter franchise was written by British author J.K. Rowling. Rowling was reluctant to sign over the film rights of the series to an American film production company, Warner Bros,–

demanding the main cast be British (source). This is likely due to a fear of a culturally homogenised enactment of her characters – she created them specifically as British. However, the producers and directors of the films were a combination of American (Chris Columbus), Mexican (Alfonso Cuaron) and British (David Yates and  Mike Newell). This combination of Hollywood and British contribution makes it difficult to determine the nationality  of the

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Poster
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Poster

Harry Potter cinema. Irish actors were also cast (such as Richard Harris) and various European actors in the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Alfonso Cuaron, a Mexican, directed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The title of the first film, originally Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was adapted to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, as that was thought to better suit the desires of an American audience. Therefore it can be said that the Harry Potter film franchise is an example of transnational cinema. Still, taking a much shallower view of the franchise, Harry Potter and its characters are generally known to be British.

Sara Robinson’s Harry Potter and the Magic of Global Culture explores how the novels were adapted to suit different cultural audiences. In France, the story was edited to highlight the educational themes above any others. Many different storylines in paperback circulated

Book cover for Japanese Harry Potter, ft. Hedwig
Book cover for Japanese Harry Potter, ft. Hedwig

Chinese markets, many of which had Chinese characters in Chinese settings. Japanese versions focus on the symbol of Hedwig, with owls culturally representing good fortune.

This makes Harry Potter  an example of cultural appropriation. But is it an example of cultural homogenisation? No – it spreads British culture more than American (i.e. the boarding school tradition), and that is culturally appropriated to different areas on the globe. Is there anything wrong with the story being told in different ways to appeal to different audiences? It could be said that it is disrespectful to the author, J.K. Rowling and to British culture to have the story modified to market better in another country.

Robinson acknowledges that Australians were fed identical Harry Potter media to the British (free from cultural appropriation),

“readers accept the novels’ unfamiliar concepts as part of its inherent Britishness”

Is this assuming the British settlement of Australia has born British culture within us? Or are we as Australians more adaptable to viewing other cultures? Or is our culture not deemed strong enough for its own appropriation?

So we can safely pronounce that a media phenomenon such as Harry Potter is influenced by different cultural roots, and is interpreted and restyled in many others. I believe cultural appropriation has, to a degree, reduced the British authenticity of the franchise and therefore effectively locked up the opportunity for British culture to be spread in some nations, but at the end of the day, viewers worldwide are responding to media they can relate to and enjoy.

Claire 🙂

When Mickey Mouse met Astro Boy – How ethnoscapes are shaping the Global Village

 Globalisation can be defined simply as the breakdown of barriers between nations. It is characterised by a worldwide interdependence and instantaneous information exchange. Generally seen as a utopian concept, the global village is a vision of the world as one community rather than many, linked through telecommunications (Oxford Dictionary). Some see the global village as cultural equality and appreciation; others see it to be promoting cultural imperialism. This blog post will discuss,

A depiction of American Cultural Imperialism
A depiction of American Cultural Imperialism

through looking at evolving ethnoscapes, how globalisation is just as much the spread of Eastern culture around the globe as it is the West, and therefore criticise the theory of cultural imperialism.

 Cultural imperialism  argues that the globalisation of communications results in the intrusion of Western culture, and phenomena such as homogenisation and Americanisation, however evolving ethnoscapes demonstrate that this is not the case.

Ethnoscapes, the patterns of people shifting their homes from one country to another, such as through migration or tourism ( Appadurai, 1990), have shaped the global village of today.

A map showing post WWII migration patterns.
A map showing post WWII migration patterns.

Post World War II years saw forced migration, exponential rises in refugee numbers, more people moving abroad to work, cheaper air fares and so on, which led to the spread of culture around the globe. Many of the people affected were Easterners. Entering Western nations, they brought their language, values and culture, including cuisine.

How many restaurants are in your home town? How many of those are Indian? Chinese? Thai? Vietnamese? How many sushi bars are there?  Have you ever been to Chinatown? It is ignorant to assume that globalisation is merely the cultural imperialism of the West; there are as many, if not more, ethnic food outlets in society as there are Western fast food chains.
Disney World in Tokyo

This idea can be seen as parallel to multidirectional media flows. Whilst the construction of Disney Worlds

Anime Character, Astro Boy
Anime Character, Astro Boy

in places such as Hong Kong, Paris and Tokyo has made characters such as Mickey Mouse universally recognisable, Bollywood film and Japanese Anime is becoming prominent in many western nations.

Michael O’Shaughnessy and Jane Stadler refer to American sociologist and communications scholar Todd Gitlin in their publication Globalisation (2008);

“If there is a global village, it speaks American . . . (it) recognises Mickey Mouse, James Dean, ET, Bart Simpson, R2-D2 and Pamela Anderson”.

Whilst this is a mere opinion, it would be unreasonable to suggest otherwise. Western media and products are internationally

Internationally Recognisable, The Simpsons
Internationally Recognisable, The Simpsons

recognised by many, if not all cultures. In saying that, O’Shaughnessy and Stadler also note the international recognition of Eastern media “such as Japanese Anime, Bollywood films and Bhangra music”.

These ideas are explored in Vietnamese/American writer, Andrew Lam’s, blog post Globalisation: The World Changes America; “The Mexican migrant worker moves his family back and forth. . . treating the borders as if they were mere nuisances.” This indicates the physical and virtual ease of global movement.

Lam also agrees with O’Shaughnessy and Stadler in that America is not the policeman of the global village.

Think Korean movies, Balinese dancers, kung fu, acupuncture, and a myriad of cultural practices — these will not simply wash away because CNN and MTV are accessible now to the peasant in his mud hut.

It’s safe to say media flows are multi-directional; no one culture has the monopoly. Therefore post WWII ethnoscapes have driven cultural imperialism into the ground and the dissemination of cultural media has overruled.


Appadurai, A (1996) ‘Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy’, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 27-47.

Lam, A (2013) ‘Globalisation: The World Changes America’, The Huffington Post, accessed 9.08.15

O’Shaughnessy, M and Stadler, J (2008) ‘Globalisation’, Media and Society (fifth edition) Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 458-471.