This chapter explores the methodology of ethnography in postcolonial Africa, with specific reference to anthropological media research. The chapter draws on an ethnography of a local radio station in South Africa as a starting point from which to make several observations about media ethnographies and anthropological approaches to media production and consumption. It outlines how the chosen methodology revealed unique characteristics of the local, as well as how the findings and experiences could be related to national and regional contexts. Moreover, the chapter explores notions of reflexive “backyard” or “native” ethnographies, and reveals the complex relational issues that can arise from this approach. This case study is premised on the notion of media as a collective mediation of culture; and argues that the practice of ethnography allows for a refreshing departure from the more common armchair textual analyses that permeate media studies.
It's another typical day at Radio X, a local radio station in the shadow of Table Mountain, inaugurated as one of the seven wonders of the world in 2012. DJs are bustling about getting ready to go on air; producers are chatting animatedly on their phones, setting up interviews; others are downstairs broadcasting “pavement radio” to local factory workers; and a group of teenagers are upstairs in the meeting room discussing hip hop and social change. And perhaps I'm the only ...