An investigation into the popularity of American action movies shown in informal video houses in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
The early 1990s saw a major change in the Ethiopian history in so far as Ethiopian media consumption practices was concerned. With the change of government in 1991, the ‘Iron Curtail’ prohibiting the dissemination of Western symbolic products within the country was lifted which in turn led to a surge in demand for Western predominantly American media texts. In order to supply this new demand, informal video houses showing primarily American action movies were opened in Addis Ababa. There was a significant shift in Ethiopians’ films consumption practices which were previously limited to watching films produced by socialist countries mainly the former Soviet Union. This study set out to probe reasons for the attraction of American action movies shown in video-viewing houses in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia amongst the urban unemployed male youth. Particularly, it examines how the meanings produced by and embedded in the cultural industries of the West are appropriated in the day-to-day lives of the youth. The importance of video houses as a shared male cultural space for Ethiopian unemployed youth and the watching of American action movies in this space are the main entry and focus of this study. Using qualitative methods such as observation, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions, the study explores what happens in this cultural space and how one makes sense of the impact of American media on local audiences.
The findings of the study point to the embeddedness of viewing practice in everyday life and the importance of local contexts in understanding text-reader interaction. This is shown by the male youth’s tendency to use media messages as a mode of escape and a symbolic distancing from their lived impoverished reality. The study also seeks to highlight that the video houses as cultural space have contributed to the creation of marginal male youth identities in the Ethiopian patriarchal society. As such, these and other findings, the study argues, highlight the deficiencies of the media imperialism thesis with its definitive claims for cultural homogenisation as effect of globalisation of media. As such, this study should be read as emphasising the capability of local audience groups in Third World country like Ethiopia to construct their own meanings and thus their own local cultures and identities, even in the face of their virtually complete dependence on the image flows distributed by the transnational culture industries.
School Location:South Africa
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:journalism and media studies
Date of Publication:01/01/2006