Monday, November 30, 2009

Entertainment Education

Dutta's article criticizes Entertainment Education campaigns and analyses USAID objectives. She claims that the values and ideologies driving a campaign are perhaps most evident in the objectives of the campaign. Dutta writes, “the goals of EE programs then are located within the broader goals of USAID to create strategically secure environments and to exploit subaltern spaces to secure profits for the transnational hegemony.” She writes that in essence, the goal of EE programs serve the tools of globalization and transnational capitalism that impose a set of core values on other parts of the world and that open up the doors of countries from starvation and poverty to commercial products of the free market economy. Dutta argues that EE programs have become the tools for colonialism of a different kind that focuses on creating markets for multinationals. Which correlates to what Singhal asks in his article, “why are 'doing well' (commercially) and 'doing good' (socially) perceived as being at odds with each other?” If USAID goals are to open up markets to transnational corporations, are their commercial interests are in some ways at odds with their EE goals?

I was hoping Dutta's article would discuss more specific campaigns and gone more in depth with some analyses. She does mention some movements briefly and writes in a footnote that many grassroots movements use forms of entertainment such as folk art forms, streets plays, etc. She quotes some subaltern voices which articulate the need for food in many countries. Singhal gives examples of EE campaigns and what they are fighting. For example, the Karate Kids has been shown to combat the prostitution of street children in dozens of nations. Soul City in South Africa spend many months conducting extensive formative research to develop one annual campaign cycle. One of the problems of EE interventions in places like the US is what the authors call 'media-saturated societies.' This made me think about last week's readings, specifically Nye when he discussed the 'paradox of plenty' and how there is a scarcity of attention because of this. I think the 'scarcity of attention' is an issue even in societies where people are not overrun by the media and information from many directions. Trying to find the right kind of EE for a specific community is quite difficult and obtaining and keeping their attention is just as difficult. The goal of EE is behavioral and social change, and this is even harder than just acquiring people's attention. I'd be interested to read some research in this area. What are the best EE practices to obtain behavioral change? Is it necessary in this process to separate the commercial and social goals then? Singhal notes that entertainment-education interventions face a variety of challenges and resistances from the start of the message production process, to the message environment, and even during message reception. “Theoretically based research on entertainment-education should pay greater attention to these various resistances, and identify ways to overcome them.” Dutta recommends that scholars of health communication start looking outside the traditional EE agenda and defining alternative models of participatory communication. "Scholars need to identify problems based on community dialogue, fostering it with the elite classes to facilitate structural changes and working with subaltern classes to identify strategies for getting their voices heard." Dutta's recommendations are common sense in some ways, but they are not easily executed because the subaltern voices the ones that are easily ignored.


  1. Agreed. At the same time, I feel like Dutta's critique is in many ways supported and even extended by Fisher's call for 'open source public diplomacy' in which PD "is not merely about persuading people to adopt your goals" but "achieving your goals through helping others achieve theirs." Fisher's open source method requires the kind of leveling, anti-hierarchical approach to participation that Dutta is asking for.

    The difficulty is the conflict pointed out by Dutta and many others-- in the end, many of the Western-financed EE campaigns have objectives that are rather at odds with or far from those of the populations they seek to influence. Opening up economies to U.S. goods and services, and providing a place for Americans to study, travel, and work is probably not exactly at the top of the list for a country with the majority of its population living in poverty without access to clean water,education or food.

    A truly 'bazaar' (not cathedral) approach to an E-E campaign funded by USAID, for example, might require USAID to rethink its fundamental goals and how they might be re-focused to reflect goals that realisticaly would coincide with those of the impoverished populations they seek to influence...likelihood of this actually occurring seems low, but perhaps if presented in the right way (people who are not starving and desperate are less likely to become terrorists, countries with successful economies are less likely to start wars with ther neighbors over resources, etc.)? It might take a counter E-E campaign from local organizations in the country itself, with slogans like "You can't feed your children condoms" or "Population control or access to clean water? We'd like water. Thanks, The People."

    And I agree, I would have liked to see more examples of specific campaigns, like Fisher did in the 'applications' section-- though his analysis was rather brief as well.

  2. Amparo, I agree with you. I too felt like Dutta didn't go far enough in describing specific campaigns. She details the problem but doesn't provide enough information about interventions that are successful. Also, she doesn't provide much information on how the implementing agencies would react to the concept of subaltern-based approaches. I’m curious to know what it would take to get them to actually adopt and implement this new way of thinking.