Dr Volcic is an affiliate of the Centre for Communication and Social Change and a senior lecturer at the School of Journalism and Communication, UQ. For the past several years, Dr Volcic has been teaching and publishing in the areas of media, development, social change, dependency, nationalism, and identity.
Explain to us you area of expertise and why you love it?
My scholarship, research, and creative works are all manifestations of my commitment to a deeper understanding of the relationship between media, nationalism, globalization and politics. I come from media political economy and cultural studies traditions, and I study media in the Balkans. This is an exciting and interesting time to study the Balkans in part because of the dramatic transformations associated with the forces of economic globalization, the establishment of seven new nation-states out of the former Yugoslavia, the introduction of pan-Balkan satellite media, the EU enlargement, the “War on Terror,” and the resurgent nationalisms in the Balkans. Based on empirical research, my work attempts to make new arguments about the resilience of cultures of national belonging in an era of globalization. I love my work for many reasons… also because it initiates a necessary conversation about and political critique of the mediated global terrain on which nationhood is defined, performed, regulated, made visible, and experienced. I love my work because it allows me to speak and tell the stories of the oppressed: I can go to the Middle East with my friend Helga Tawil and record the stories of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine...
How do you see the relationship between communication and social change?
The realm of culture is a sphere of social change and the realm of communication, in particular, is a path that leads toward social transformation. These spheres are of course closely connected. One just needs to look at contemporary struggles going on around the world: the Arab Spring, Occupy movements, and so many other civil society initiatives. The relationship between communication and social change opens a space to conceptually address a question: how can we study concrete human relations with their unique combination of subjective, objective, and historical features? And furthermore, why does a given society have a particular form at a particular moment - that form and not some other? And how do people whose very selves are part of that social form transform themselves and their society? How do they communicate? How do they make CHANGE? Communication has emancipatory potential, of course.
How does your research make change?
I attempt to contribute to academic and policy making debates about the role of media in creating identities. For example, towards the end of the 1980s and the early 1990s, when the nationalisms of all the republics of the former Yugoslavia escalated, each community re-activated national media systems in order to reinforce a sense of national identity and difference. My research demonstrated how the production of history suited new nationalistic elites and how the wars were conducted at two levels of reality: the actual and the imaginary, the physical and the symbolic. I show how (ab)using the media, manipulating histories, and attacking cultural symbols (such as libraries, monuments…) had a two-fold purpose during the wars: the first intent was to subject the targeted population to terror and to pressure them to leave their homes. The second intent was to create ethnically and religiously homogenous areas, which was a fundamental component and objective of the war. With my colleague, Karmen Erjavec, from University of Ljubljana, I have been involved in drafting the media education curriculum. The one we developed was adopted by the Slovene public education system. It has already been evaluated and the media education course is one of the most popular courses in primary and secondary schools. We were approached to consult with other governments in the region on the development of their media education curricula.
What’s your biggest challenge?
Trying to understand how economic transformations associated with the creation of a post-communist capitalist economy are conflated with political transformation to a democratic system, and the inherent conflicts between these two developments. So I am a harsh critic of capitalist system, and the processes of privatization, commercialization, and deregulation. And I agree with Tariq Ali who writes that the notion that democracy and capitalism are interlinked is nonsense.
Right now, one of the personal challenges is not to go crazy when seeing the double standards of the US and other Western states towards protestors in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Despite supporting rebels in Libya and Egypt, US is supporting the crackdown on protestors in states more friendly to US agenda.
What are you most proud of?
Hard question… proud? Ah, I think I’ll avoid this question…
What are your top three favourite websites related to the field?
Who are your favourite characters of history?
Ivan Cankar, Edward Said, Rosa Luxemburg, Fyodor Dostoyevski, Walter Benjamin – writers, public intellectuals, political activists
What do you think makes this moment in history unique?
There is a spread of an awareness that governments shouldn’t play the market, but they should govern. Seeing more and more people being radicalized by the anti-globalization, anti-colonial, and anti-poverty movements in Europe, USA, Latin America, Africa…
What is the quality you most admire in a person?
Political commitment and radicalism.
What is your motto?
Have many… for different days. For example, “Just survive. And don’t get too depressed about the world we live in.” Or, “Let’s speak and live frankly, no bullshit.” And more.. “don’t just ride the train of history but apply the brake”…