Culture and Hegemony
‘Culture’ and ‘Hegemony’ two key phrases we have all come across through our study of the media- But what exactly do they mean?
Culture refers to the way of life a society or social group that generally involves shared norms and values. There are many types of culture e.g. subcultures, high culture, popular culture and consumer culture. Gramsci argues that ‘culture is political’
Hegemony refers to the dominant values that exist in society, controlled by institutions such as the media and school.
Now Antonio Gramsci utilised both words to create a Marxist concept that he explores and applies to social classes – ‘Cultural Hegemony’. He explains Cultural hegemony as the notion that ‘the ruling social group controls the minds of other groups through culture’ (Gramsci, Buttigieg and Callari, 2011).
However, he also introduced us to the ‘subaltern’ which refers to the ideas that deviate from hegemonic (dominant) ones.
Now how does this apply to my magazine experience?
The Media + UBUNTU Magazine
UBUNTU is a black focused magazine where our content featured within, explores black culture, social problems as well as entertainment.
Traditional mainstream magazines that are hegemonic tend to not focus on a specific minority group. The bulk majority focus on western beauty, fashion, lifestyle, talents, entertainment etc and the reasoning behind such is rather obvious. All of the successful magazines we see and read no matter what type they are, all share one thing in common- making a profit. Whether we like to be reminded of this or not, we have to remember that western norms and culture are profitable for the companies but for the target audiences, they’ve essentially cultivated the minds by bombarding them with a way of life that is deemed the norm. Ultimately, benefiting the ruling class.
George Gerbner’s theory of cultivation is a great theory to apply to the current norms or ‘hegemony’ of our society. The large media organisations have instilled western norms and culture into the minds of society through numerous forms of the media over a period of time; leaving no room for minority groups who are essentially forced to succumb to this hegemony (Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N.1994).
The hegemonic representation of race is very extreme within the media. For example, black representation is either them as a superhero or exceptionalism or as a criminal- there’s no in-between. As a result, this heavily distorted view excluded the real experiences from mainstream society to keep western hegemony intact.
Now, UBUNTU magazine would in Gramsci’s words be defined as the ‘subaltern’. It deviates from traditional hegemonic displays of race because we are bringing in real life ‘normal’ experiences to our market. Nothing too spectacular, but rather some normality. Something our target audiences can read and relate to. For example, one of the features within the magazine will be centred around the experiences of a black woman in the Muslim community, and another is celebrating black talent, black history, sneaker culture- Nothing superhero like or related to violence like traditional media tends to favour.
Our magazine challenges these large institutions and the ingrained cultural hegemony to include minority communities and represent them in a way that’s normal and real.
Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (1994). Growing up with television: The cultivation perspective. In J. Bryant & D. Zillmann (Eds.), LEA’s communication series. Media effects: Advances in theory and research (p. 17–41). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Gramsci, A., Buttigieg, J. and Callari, A., 2011. Prison Notebooks. 2nd ed. New York: Columbia University Press, p.13.