South African Readers and Consumer Capitalism, 1932-1962
This study develops a new perspective on the ways mass media has impacted modern societies. The main goal is to reinterpret the role of the African press in the making of South African capitalism by revealing overlooked intimacies between print companies and consumers. Between 1932 and 1962, European settlers controlled the most popular newspapers and magazines enjoyed by African readers, and scholars have since viewed these white-owned, African-oriented periodicals as either supporting Apartheid by suppressing radicalism or challenging Apartheid by spurring creativity. But I suggest that beyond being a large-scale ideological battleground, scholars must also recognize that the African press fueled much more localized interactions in social and economic life––from rural sales networks to urban sightseeing destinations––and that these interactions shaped South Africa’s commercial fabric. At the same time, by pursuing several analytical experiments, the secondary goal is to challenge common contrasts between older mediums like print and newer mediums like social networks. In the last few decades, the rise of digital media has led many sociologists, media theorists, and other scholars to posit sharp historical breaks between the present and the past. But I show that one of the most heavily stressed breaks––a perceived shift from media systems dominated by professional producers to those supported by amateur contributors––has often been misleadingly framed. Each of my chapters documents a different way that pre-internet audiences directly aided the development of media businesses, suggesting several new paths for comparative research on other countries and mediums.
Mass communication; Crowdsourcing; Consumer Capitalism; Print Culture; African studies; Geography; Journalism; Mass Media
Byfield, Judith A.; Foster, Jeremy
Ph. D., History
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis