Global and International Media Image

Visiting Professor Hemant Shah


Hemant Shah is a Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He earned his Ph.D. in mass communication from Indiana University, his M.A. in communication studies from Purdue University, and his B.A. in communication and sociology from the University of California-San Diego.

In both the U.S. and international contexts Shah's research investigates the role of mass media in various types of social change, such as national development, the construction of cultural identities, creation of racial anxieties, social movements, and other similar processes. Shah has conducted fieldwork in India and Uganda and his research has been published in Communication Theory, The Communication Review, Critical Studies in Mass Communication, Howard Journal of Communication, International Journal of Intercultural Communication, Journalism Monographs, Journalism Quarterly, Media Asia, and other journals. Shah is the co-author of Newspaper Coverage of Interethnic Conflict: Competing Visions of America, a book analyzing general circulation and ethnic minority newspaper reporting of interracial conflict in three US cities.

Shah is affiliated with the UW Asian American Studies Program, and the Global Media and Democracy in Asia Research Circle of the UW International Institute. Shah is also active in campus initiatives on diversity and multicultural education. He is the Faculty Diversity Liaison for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Shah joined the Madison faculty in 1990 and teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on mass media, race and ethnicity; international communication; mass communication in developing nations; and critical and cultural approaches to mass communication research.

Talk: Race, Mass Communication and "Third World" Nation Building: Academic Networks and Modernization Theory After World War I

This project examines the intellectual history of modernization and mass communication theory, a specific development communication model conceived and elaborated in the United States in 1950s and 1960s. Specifically, I examine the ways in which the theory and its assumptions about people, social change, and media effects were inflected by changing ideas in the US academy about race and race relations. Recent research on modernization has begun to show that racial thinking had an important impact on the formulation of modernization theory in the post-war era. However, no one has systematically examined why, how, and with what consequences ideas race and race relations made their way into academic work about introducing mass communication into countries of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East (the "third world") as important elements of making them "modern."

First, I undertake a review of discussions about race between roughly 1920 and 1950 that were marked by a discursive shift from "biological racism" to "cultural racism." This shift had important implications for the ways American academics and policy makers thought about the postcolonial world, especially in the context of modernization theory. After providing examples of cultural racism within modernization theory and its mass communication component, I show how the shift occurred institutionally through intellectual networks. I also review the ideological, disciplinary, and culturally based criticisms of modernization model of development launched from within the US and the post colonial world. Finally, I discuss the implications of bringing cultural racism discourses into modernization theory: Understanding the intellectual roots of the connections between race, mass communication and modernization contribute to contemporary and critical understanding of US-based development communication efforts by (1) challenging the idea that modernization was a problem strictly for the third world, (2) highlighting cultural reasons for the racialized persistence of modernization, and (3) providing insights into US foreign policy in contemporary nation-building efforts.