National Belonging, Convergence Methodologies & Media Representations of Power

Recent contact with established journalist, Olja Beckovic has enhanced an understanding of the current state of media within Serbia. I begin this post with an understanding of power and responsibility, formed by knowledge of Curran (1981). Beckovic tends to research into the future of Serbian media and what forms still matter most. This often begs the question, of how can Serbian journalists improve the current situation and what would it take to readdress the state of national belonging affected by current mediated awareness.

Previous posts suggest strongly theories of Utopia Socialism: considered in terms of power by Engles (1880) of the attempt to provide a perfect solution therefore a ‘new’ world. Kumar, however, brings in the concept of technology into this new world utopia. Kumar (1981:302) suggests, “The utopian tide of the 1960’s flowed largely within a tide of technological optimism” ultimately the argument was not technological but against its abuse of technology. Technology, for journalists in Serbia especially, is a key tool that is necessary of the duty of reporter. Considering Zoric (2010) who engages in her understanding of security in Serbia by the advancement of technology going mobile and adapting to a professional lifestyle confidence of identity grows. The positionality of a female researcher is noted here, as the self-security is assured rather than being flanked by camera crew (‘men’). Media tends to be seen as a freedom of expression, especially under the works of Beckovic, which will be interesting to note her career development to become a journalist in the early 90’s, the same time as the position to be political TV show host, “The Impression of the Week”. In terms of security, perhaps the visual identification of her own image projected, and then nationally, was taken advantage of.

Curran (1981) identifies theories stemming from Foucault, whom identifies surveillance culture and control whilst still suggesting the potential for regulation. Contemporary theory comes under scrutiny here, the idea of subjectivity of understanding yourself, particularly one’s positionality as a researcher and/or reporter – which can often be suggested has similar connotations. We are often self disciplining and self monitoring, leading directly to discourses of surveillance which is interesting to consider in terms of Foucault & Althusser.

Feelings do not often have a linear history though they are being connected- as a narrative. This narrative can be displayed within works of journalism as expression of a news or event has been chosen but how that story has become represented and what facts appear to be chosen due to how the knowledge has formed as the researcher. “We are becoming … Not being”. Here, considering Serbia and what research that has been uncovered so far – the promise of happiness appears to be strongly motivating despite closure not being found in Belgrade.

Focusing on convergence mythology: Curran (1981:282):

“The rise of transnational media and globalization are weakening, in this view, identification with the nation. They are also said to be eroding engagement in national politics since this derives ultimately from a sense of national belonging”.

I am interested in the concept of national belonging for a journalist in Serbia. How is their future being contrasted by the catalyst of mobile technology and the advancement of how we receive our media? When borders are historically changing, how does it position itself (the researcher or journalist) in contact with its borders and neighbours – do they shape that individual subjectively through a grand fusion of technologies.

National Belonging, Convergence Methodologies & Media Representations of Power

Temptations, Western Influence & Turbo Folk

The interview begun with a brief revisit of the Yugoslavian history and addressing our own understanding as researchers, and considering our positionality. Jovana provided us an insight on the culture of Serbia through her own representation of the present:

“You know more, since those wars and end of communism and countries ‘made up’ there has been a mass difference; … you have your life plan so you travel and … Then we like to complain and not structure things… And definitely people become kind of lazy and – here (in the UK) you give the impression of trying and there wasn’t much passion for trying.”

Already this begun to ignite a further interest in the culture and lifestyle of Belgrade and how it had changed since the conflict. However, considering Jovana mentioned that she found her own culture as ‘lazy’, perhaps it is interesting to consider how technology and media has influenced this as it has become globally integrated within various lifestyles. Social media became a narrative for Jovana to recover details of the conflicts, as she gave us an insight on her own understanding of the representations other countries have illustrated of Serbia.

“For me, I … well, this media thing like facebook and different newspapers you can see young people who were born at war time or even years after, fighting and calling each other – for example Croatians against Serbians! Or… or Bosnians against Serbians – calling each other bad names…” The media clearly still matters though in a form to fuel conflict and representations that have been constructed on meta narratives previous to the war. Considering the temptations that the media faces, and the prosumers who create some of the content, to leave certain details out for a reason. This could be done unconsciously though it is still done for a reason. The media, for Serbia in particular, has conformed to a surveillance culture (Foucault) that enables young adults who have been told through politicians, families and mediated contexts to survey others from neighboring countries, such as Bosnia.

This alternatively relates into structuralism, the interview’s preliminary purpose was to understand Serbia’s culture before travelling to Belgrade, and as a change to the previously established Utopia, which Jovana suggested had now become so separate and divided. In terms of power, Engles (1880) points out that extreme revolutionists did not recognize any external authority of any kind whatsoever when considering Utopia Socialism of which he defined as: “an ideologically driven system that can provide hegemony and attempt to provide a solution to a perfect vision and a ‘new world’”.

Curran (2009) considers that the higher levels of news consumption contributes to a smaller ‘within-knowledge gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged’. Of which I found interesting to acknowledge during our interview with Jovana of media representations of their own celebrities and celebrity culture. Jovana introduced us to Turbo Folk inspired artist: Ceca, who’s husband fought in the war against Croatia though was killed in 2000. She was one of the highest paid female artists in Serbia and consequently inherited FK Obillic football club from her late husband, Arkan. Considering her media presence, as a female artist, she provides a sexualized response for young female Serbian followers of which they appear to look up to as a fashion icon.

Volcic (2010:104) describes Ceca as, “a version of comodified femininity based on the marketing of a promise of personal empowerment” however it must be noted that Ceca’s national identity of being originally a ‘Serb’ has been overridden, claims Volcic (2010) by her personal identity that has become, more recently, to conform to westernized values. Ceca and Turbo Folk’s image has become represented as western by conforming to ‘sexy’ and tightly dressed clothes that would be similar to established western pop music singers. The difference, perhaps, is that Ceca remain to be a female artist that has become empowered by triumphing over previous hardships. Sandvoss (2005:105) suggests that the media and cultural studies should focus upon the ‘multiple meanings to address “neutrosemic” texts’ which becomes an abstract understanding of boundaries that often become symbolic when represented to a global audience.

In terms of empowerment, Ceca has various values of wife and mother that illustrates her conforming to traditional and normative roles of a woman though arguably she is also conforming to modern (western) values as she is conforming to more than one value through her identity as successful artist and role model.

Volcic (2010) identifies Ceca as a local, “…and rose from local to national celebrity…” (2010:107) Of which conforms to one of the three temptations of the lure of the marginal. Fanon suggests that the voices of the local contain postcolonial identity and self-mutilations of the local voice. This may be one of the many reasons behind the respect and love for Ceca and fellow Turbo Folk artists, because of their recognition of the roots in which they originated from. Fanon continues to suggest that the local provides a space for this once oppressed voice and that it can be common for the discourse of the oppressed to still talk in the register of the oppressor and to consider themselves in that voice. Ceca’s power can be identified, not only by her visually noted beauty, established rural origins and (presently westernized) urban style but when her first recorded album was recorded in 1987 and exposed to fans, mainly situated in the Balkans. Resulting in Ceca’s national identity growing globally thus luring her to the value of the Cosmopolitan. When considering methods of research, Hannerz (1990) distinguishes the cosmopolitan from the tourist through state of mind, an interest for tolerance and for ‘otherness’. The cosmopolitan space is the most attractive to be situated in and viewed from. Here, Ceca can be identified as conforming to the cosmopolitan lure because she is a part of the local and has previously encountered the local which has shaped her knowledge and understanding of what the audience desires from her in Serbia, and surrounding Balkans.

As the interview progressed it became clearer that Jovana depended on the representations previously constructed and whom she was able to trust, though this appeared to vary from family members to mediated documentaries:

Adam Teighe: Did you say … obviously this is difficult for you because this is going back (historically) for you, but do you think people were happy before the war and before communism?

Jovana: Yes. Again, what I have seen from documentaries, and what I hear stories from older people and my parents that it was hard but communism tried to make everyone equal. But now, that gap between poor and rich is bigger. In that time we are all brothers –

Adam Teighe : Comrades…

Jovana: Er – I think people were happier, as people would have job and if you didn’t have job then you would get some help. Yes. Now you cannot count and that country is miserable and cannot survive …

In terms of representation of culture and globalisation of western values imposing upon once Yugoslavia combined countries, Curran & Seaton (1981:299) suggest that there is a “utopian projection”. A projection to the future when considering technologies and how we understand a culture when it is based upon a series of representation, of which for Jovana Serbia has become to a degree. Curran & Seaton (1981: 299-300) identify that; “information has been manipulated in different places for different purposes from broadcasting or telephones”. Which reminds us, as an external audience, that we have learnt or understood our representation of Serbia only by the information that has been predominantly exposed though we have not considered as highly the information that has been neglected because it is not as easily available.

Conclusively, Tarlac (2003) comments on the propaganda tool that Turbo Folk singers provide, to the ‘battlefield’ serving as a ‘motivational force for the military” (2003:107). Which can arguably provide the superiority of its kind in Serbia because of its respected ‘sound track’ to the conflict that was so intensely experienced, despite Ceca disliking the phrase ‘sound track’. It is interesting to consider the serious connotations Turbo Folk is recognised as being collaborated to because Volcic (2010) recognises that during early 1990’s the “turbo folk culture” were an important part to new commercial television stations such as TV Pink that tends to be ridiculed by Serbians for its name. Pink carries the connotation of immature and ‘laughable’. Though Volcic shapes this research understanding as this being the true birth of the celebrity status recognition for the Turbo Folk singers, such as Ceca, who reportedly became “celebrities of the culture of criminal acitvities combined with an aggressive embrace of the good life, mob style…” (2010:107). Ceca remains to be a highly respected idol for young adults in the Balkans, more so on a global scale now that she has become to adopt western influence considering her ‘sex appeal’ image.

Temptations, Western Influence & Turbo Folk

Serbian Month: Uroš Petović

Serbian Month in Great Britain is organised and hosted by the Serbian Council in the UK, offering a range of Serbian cultured events from: music to art, drama to sports and film to folk dancing, all of which could not have happened at a more convenient time for our research project. However, the event that we took significant interest in was, ‘An Evening with acclaimed Serbian Writer Uroš Petrović, Reading – Serbian School and Serbian Council of Great Britain’. This event was to take place in both London and Reading on the 6th – 7th February, making this a very last minute opportunity for us to take up as I had only found out about Serbian Month earlier in that same week. Nevertheless, other members of the group along with myself felt that this was something we should take advantage of and decided to attend this event in Reading.

The first thing we decided on was who would be attending this event and be representing our group. As Petrović is an acclaimed writer and the first author to have his novel turned into the first 3D film in Serbia, it made sense and was of particular interest for Rajinder, Harpreet and myself. We all knew that we wanted to gain as much information possible and take advantage of this event to the best of our ability. Therefore, we emailed the woman hosting this particular event to ask if it would be possible to interview Petrović and any other staff working on the event. To our surprise, she emailed back almost immediately expressing her gratitude that we wanted to attend the event and expressed that it would be a pleasure for us to interview Petrović.

In preparation for our interview, the three of us set about conducting research into Petrović’s biography, his work and awards so that we could write constructive interview questions. Petrović is best known for his writing of children’s horror and mystery novels. He was the first author to write for the children’s horror genre in Serbia and has most recently (December 2014) had one of his books, The Fifth Butterfly, turned into the first 3D film in Serbia. Petrović has won many awards for his novels, the most recent ones being: Rade Obrenovic Award, Best Children’s Novel (2013) ‘Children Of Bestragija’. In addition to his writing, Petrović is a renowned photographer; Chairman of the Serbian MENSA (2008-2013) and founding member of the Menza World Photo Cup.

We arrived at the event about fifteen minutes before it started so that we could get acquainted with the host and how the day was going to run. Mirjana greeted us at the door, explained the itinerary and introduced us to Uros Petrović. Within moments of meeting Petrović, he had handed us the magazine ‘Metropol’ December 2012 edition, containing a 30-page spread interview on him and his work. Although he did not clearly explain why he had handed this to us, we gathered that it was so that we could understand his answering style and to see the questions he had been asked in the past.

Unbeknownst to us, everyone at the event knew exactly who we were and were eager to talk to us and find out why we were so interested in, what was to them, a small cultural Serbian community event. The events were delivered mainly in Serbian, however every time there was a new section of the itinerary starting, we were officially informed and it was delivered in English. The first event of the day was delivered by the children of the Serbian school – a short play based upon farmyard animals, poems and nursery rhymes again following the comedic route (from what we can gather) accompanied with Serbia music, preformed by themselves.

Our next adventure for the day was Petrović’s workshop. The teacher of the school, where the event was being held, explained what was going on whilst Petrović was delivering his talk. Petrović is known for his love of riddles and this was a major part of his work today. Although we could not understand what was being said for the majority of the time, the children’s and audiences participation and laugher response made it clear that Petrović is a very comedic and well received man. The atmosphere of the room made all three of us still enjoy this workshop.

Petrović was selling a variety of his books at this event, unfortunatley none printed in English, though we were lucky enough to get to discuss with the seller about Petrović’s style of humour. She expressed that he is a very philosophical man who loves to get people thinking in order to solve his riddles and puzzles. She further developed her explanation by explaining that Petrović has a brilliant sense of humour that entices the audience inwards. The conclusion that we drew upon after these two displays was that sarcasm is a big part of Serbian humour. In fact it appeared similar to ours and proved an excellent way to draw in audiences of all ages.

The interview with Petrović was our last event for the day but, unfortunately, was cut short. Continuation of this interview at a later date is being arranged. All interview information will be posted in a separate post.

We also had the chance to interact and talk to other guests throughout the day. We found it especially beneficial when talking to Lazic as he recommended a Serbian film that we should watch before visiting Serbia in helping benefit our research project – Cinema Komunisto.

The day was not only successful in starting the initial interview with Petrović but we also managed to secure further contact details from other Serbian people working at the event. These include one man filming the event, the teacher’s son (who works for the BBC) and Petrović’s personal contact information too, so that we can continue with the interview over email or Skype.

Charlotte, Rajinder and Harpreet.

Serbian Month: Uroš Petović


Our focus will be on post-war children’s television and whether the state of the cultural and political landscape at the ending of the war became intertwined within these media texts and, if so, how. We will be looking at children’s television programmes on mainstream channels, particularly Kanal D. This channel presents itself online with an ethos that suggests it may be a Serbian version of the UK’s BBC network, in that its purpose is to inform, educate and entertain. Though the channel broadcasts a wide range of media (dramas, reality shows, news bulletins etc.), it has a window especially for its children’s programmes for various age groups. Our analysis will look at these shows and how they portray socio-political ideologies in their language, depictions and attitudes.

Our research will also extend towards other popular children’s and pre-teen shows from 2000 until date. Should there be a quantified way for the programme ratings to be seen and measured, our analysis will go into what the main themes of the most popular television shows might be indicative of in wider society in Serbia. After gaining some insight into these ideologies, we will try to mark out a timeline of significant shifts or changes in the socio-political perspectives and try to unpack the factors that caused these attitudes to shift.

By doing this research, we aim to find out how identity formation has changed with the most recent generations in Serbia by beginning at some of the first socialising tools – children’s television. We intend to find out what the major changes in experiences of growing up in Serbia today reflect about the cultural, social and political mind-set of the country now compared to older generations; and whether relations with other countries and other external influences have affected this since the ending of the war. From this, we mean how programmes have possibly been gendered towards certain audiences; whether McDonaldisation has been a process in the production of these media texts; and how the main themes in the stories of the programmes have been reprioritised.

In doing this research, we hope to be in contact with producers of television programmes and interview willing participants of their opinions in the direction children’s media took at the end of the war, and what this means for the children in Serbia today in terms of their understanding of national identity. Professionals within the television production industry may also have insights to share on what they think could be the future implications of younger generations being only partially aware of their country’s history and previous cultures. We also hope to explore the wider impacts of the closing down and reconstruction of major television networks in Serbia through interviews with experienced television producers as well as general audiences. We hope to find from these conversations opinions from the older, politically aware generations about knowing that the younger generations in Serbia are being schooled and socialised in a way that modifies remnants of life in Serbia before the war.