Theorizing Media as/and Civil Society in Africa

  • Wendy Willems
Part of the Nonprofit and Civil Society Studies book series (NCSS, volume 20)


Existing research on media and civil society in Africa has often adopted a rather restrictive understanding of media (defined as formal, professionalized forms of mass media) and civil society (equated with nongovernmental organizations). Furthermore, studies have frequently understood media as one component of a larger civil society comprising of a range of actors including the church and nongovernmental organizations. This chapter examines alternative routes of theorizing how different forms of old and new, formal and popular, mainstream and alternative, and privately owned and state-owned media have promoted and/or constrained the growth of a variety of forms of civil society and activism in Africa. Drawing on critical debates in the field of “alternative media studies” and reflections on the usefulness of the concept of civil society in African Studies, this chapter argues that there is room for more in-depth interrogation of the symbiotic relation between media and civil society on the continent. Furthermore, by defining media in a broader sense, we are able to shed light on the range of genres and media forms that have helped to mediate the concerns of African civil society, including popular music, humor, and guerilla journalism. Lastly, adopting a historical and less prescriptive definition of civil society helps to gain insight into the broader spectrum of civic agency on the continent, and the role played by both old and new media in either constraining or promoting these expressions in both colonial and postcolonial Africa.


Civil Society Social Movement Radio Station Dominant Approach Popular Music 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE); Department of Media StudiesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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