Transnational Media in Tanzania & the Caribbean

Published on November 15th, 2017

We look at the research work of Graduate RA student, Annis R. Sands.


During my first semester as a Research Assistant with the Global Media Technologies and Cultures Lab I conducted secondary research on Tanzanian media culture in connection with a lab project. Using MIT’s Library databases I discovered a diverse range of academic articles on media’s influence upon Tanzania’s agricultural sector, contemporary media that promote safe sex campaigns, efforts by an association of Tanzanian women’s involved in media, and the historical legacy and popularity of Indian films in the East African nation. Initially, I assumed my research would indicate how Tanzanian audiences primarily consumed content produced in Hollywood. However, my research unearthed the interconnected relationship between Tanzanians and Bollywood films. According to historian Laura Fair, the 1950s and 1980s represented a monumental moment as it revealed “a long-term passion for Indian films amongst [sic] Tanzanians of all class, ethnic and gender backgrounds…” (Fair, “‘They stole the show!’: Indian films in coastal Tanzania, 1950s-1980s,” 91). Fair’s important research disrupted the idea of global media production and consumption as a unidirectional phenomenon dictated by the global north. Instead, she recovers longstanding relationships between “global south” nations and details how their media production, distribution, and consumption takes shape beyond those imagined by traditional Western paradigms. Fair corroborates this point when she acknowledges how these “global south”–that is, Indian and Tanzanian–media interactions “highlights the importance of transnational media flows between countries and peoples in the global south, flows that are all too commonly ignored in studies of globalization of media” (Fair, 92).


As I think more about my own research on media systems and cultures in the Caribbean, this brief investigation into Tanzanian media has challenged me to explore alternative narratives to the idea that the Caribbean only looked to the North, the United States more specifically, for content or production/consumption models.
The historical waves of migration to and fro the Caribbean region offers unique vantage points to explore how media cultures have transcended borders. For example, I can explore in which media cultures Caribbean audiences have consumed or embraced during the mid-twentieth century. Did this content emerge from Hollywood, Bollywood, or Nollywood? When I started researching Tanzanian media, I felt challenged as I had minimal knowledge of this country. Yet conducting secondary research allowed me to familiarize myself with some of the existing relevant literature and to imagine tackling a new topic. By looking at the reference lists nad bibliographies, I was directed to even more relevant citations and a broader array of sources. These materials are helping me to develop an understanding of the existing literature on Tanzanian media. And studying one national context helps to foster relational and analytical comparisons when studying others that interest me, in the Caribbean, in particular.