Political Discourse Cultures and "Citizenship": The Segmentation of the Political Public Sphere in Europe

Andreas Hepp (University of Bremen) & Katharina Kleinen-von Königslöw (Jacobs University Bremen)

(PresseBox) ( Bremen, )
Present research yields contradictory diagnoses of how we might understand political communication and the possibility of a 'global citizenship' in a global media age: On the one hand we have - at least with regard to the quantity of news etc. - an increasing relevance of extraordinary, globalised political media events. 9/11, the globalization of critical demonstrations in Seattle and elsewhere or the Saddam Hussein Trial are only three examples for this trend. Such media events, while being represented in specific ways in the news of different world regions, focus the global media connectivity on particular communicative cores. These communicative cores can serve as reference points for articulating aspects of a 'global citizenship' in different regions of the world.

On the other hand we find that despite the process of media globalization national communicative spaces ('national public spheres') still exist. Globalised political media events are reflected in their relevance for national political communities or are at least interpreted from a national political perspective in the national news media. Beyond all media globalisation, the result is a nationally segmented political communication, albeit of rapidly changing degree and nature. Thus, global citizenship is often constructed in a national frame.

Our paper takes these contradictory findings - and their substantiation in our own empirical research (Forschungskonsortium WJT 2007; Wessler et al. 2008) - as a starting point for theorising the concept of 'discourse cultures' as an explicatory model: While media cultures are increasingly becoming deterritorialized as a result of media globalization in popular culture, film culture etc., we find a much higher territorial-national persistence in the field of political communication. The reason for this is that political decisions are still to a high degree decisions taken by and within nation-states, although nation-states are losing some of their compactness and strength on various levels (for an overview, see Hurrelmann et al. 2007). Therefore, while it is impossible to understand media cultures in total from a national perspective (Hepp/Couldry 2008) we still have nationalising tendencies within political 'discourse cultures' - tendencies, however, that are intimately bound up with recent transformations of statehood often neglected in media and communication research. Therefore, the concept of 'discourse cultures' helps to explain national segmenting processes within political communication in times of media globalization: 'Discourse cultures' help to understand at which points 'global citizenship' exhibits national refractions.


Forschungskonsortium WJT (2007): Weltjugendtag 2005: Megaparty Glaubensfest. Erlebnis, Medien, Organisation. Wiesbaden: VS.

Hepp, A./Couldry, N. (2008) What should comparative media research be comparing?

Towards a transcultural approach to 'media cultures'. In: Thussu, D.K. (ed.): Globalising Media Studies. London: Routledge, in print.

Hurrelmann, A./Leibfried, S./Martens, K./Mayer, P. (eds.) (2007): Transforming the Golden-Age Nation State. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wessler, H./Peters, B./Brüggemann, M./Kleinen-von Königslöw, K./Sifft, S. (2008). Transnationalization of Public Spheres. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan (forthcoming)
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