The meaning of post-apartheid Zulu media

Journal Article


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Communicatio: South African Journal for Communication Theory and Research

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University of Cape Town

This article explores the relationship between certain South African media corporations, growing post-apartheid Zulu media platforms, the size and diversity of Zulu-speaking media consumers, and the historical socio-cultural construction of ‘Zuluness’. This relationship, this author observes, manifests largely through media corporations’ increasing recognition of Zulu people's pride in Zulu (i.e. the language) and ‘Zuluness’ – all of which are historical products of various forms of socialisation. Coopting this pride, profit-driven media corporations are commodifying Zulu and ‘Zuluness’. This commodification via the establishment of Zulu media outlets is paradoxical: 1) it is a transformation of a public and open Zulu cultural sense of ‘being’ into institutionally determined commodities exchangeable for revenue, for the ultimate benefit of media owners other than the masses of Zulus themselves; 2) it is a form of commoditisation that gives Zulu a linguistic profile that has historically been accorded only to English and Afrikaans. This article's argument is further briefly articulated through various intellectual frames: Graham Murdoch and Peter Golding's conceptualisation of critical political economy of communications and culture (2005); John and Jean Comaroff's anthropological analysis of commercialisation of ethnicity (2009); and, for South African specificity and precedent, through Herman Wasserman's reading of Afrikaans media corporations’ commercialisation of Afrikaans language and identity. Then the question is: What does the explored relationship mean for South Africa's multilingualism?