Meta-research of development communication studies, 1997-2006


  • Hemant Shah


The field of development communication in the United States has been in ferment almost from the moment of its conception. Lerner’s foundational study, Modernizing the Middle East: The Passing of Traditional Society (1958), which established the idea of using mass communication to aid in the process of moving individuals and societies from traditional to modern, was not received with universal acclaim and acceptance among American scholars, as it seems now common to assume. Among the critics, one faulted the book for “generalizing on the basis of meager particulars” (Salem, 1959) and another thought it was full of uninformed political judgments (Badeau, 1959). A historian, noting a range of contradictory evidence, criticized the assumption of direct and powerful media effects in the postcolonial world. These and other critics were silenced, marginalized and otherwise brought into line with the predominant perspective that American experience with societal transformation was a universally applicable model that could be exported to modernize the new states of the postcolonial world.

Author Biography

Hemant Shah

Hemant Shah is professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Wisconsin Madison, where he is also affiliated with the Global Studies Program and the Asian American Studies program. His research is focused on the connections between mass media and social change in contexts such as national development, immigrant assimilation, formation of cultural identities, and interethnic conflict. He is the co-author of Newspaper Coverage of Interethnic Conflict: Competing Visions of America (Sage, 2004) and author of the forthcoming The Production of Modernization: Daniel Lerner, Mass Media and the Passing of Traditional Society (Temple University Press, 2011).