2017 Fourth Annual Student-Organized Global Affairs Conference


Media and Minorities in the West: Revealing Trends and Biases



Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT, USA
January 19-20, 2017

Convener: Hasher Nisar '16.5

The conference examines how the media shapes and reflects societal attitudes and opinions toward minority groups. Recent inflammatory rhetoric toward minorities around the world has triggered a new wave of racism, xenophobia, and bigotry in liberal democracies. News coverage of the American presidential election has demonized almost every minority group: Jews, Muslims, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Syrian refugees, and people with disabilities. The Brexit campaign has unleashed intolerance toward immigrants from Eastern Europe to South Asia. Countries across Europe have faced the arrival of migrants and refugees from Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan en masse. How people perceive minorities has significant implications for domestic and foreign policies. It is also important to explore how the general public’s perceptions affect the daily lives of minorities themselves. In order to do so, we must understand the power of the media to influence societal attitudes toward and discourse about minorities. This conference takes an interdisciplinary approach to examine the impact of media representations of minority groups and their  long-term effects on political and cultural change. 

The conference will explore the following questions:
  • What is the role of the media in establishing and reinforcing public opinion toward minority groups? 
  • Has the media helped or worsened public attitudes toward vulnerable minorities?
  • How does the media impact the social status of ethnic minorities that transcend national boundaries in western liberal democracies?
  • What forces affect the ways in which the media depicts different minority groups?
  • What can we, as citizens, do to use traditional and non-traditional media to impact the public discourse around the social position of minority groups?