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Introducing Bruce Mutsvairo, CERi Researcher-in-Residence
By Steven Ta
What makes journalism “real” journalism? Why is it that journalists from the Global South are not taken as seriously as Western journalists? Furthermore, what makes someone a journalist? These are a few of the questions being investigated by Bruce Mutsvairo, CERi’s researcher-in-residence from January until August 2023.
Mutsvairo is a professor in the Department of Media and Culture Studies at Utrecht University in the Netherlands whose research revolves around the importance of community engagement in academia. Mutsvairo’s research explores the development of journalism in non-western societies and citizen journalism.
“I have always had this view that the people have the power,” he shared. “People who sometimes don’t get the most attention, the people who are not seen as experts on anything, or don’t get to go to university. I always believe in those kinds of people because they have the kind of knowledge that is overlooked by people who have too much of an elitist perspective on research.”
One of the focuses of Mutsvairo’s research is on marginalized groups in the Global South whose stories are not often covered by traditional media. His publication titled, Different, But the Same: How the Global South Is Challenging the Hegemonic Epistemologies and Ontologies of Westernized/ Western-Centric Journalism Studies, looks at this issue and examines the specific methods that are being employed in the Global South to challenge Western normative standards.
For Mutsvairo, confronting the lived experiences of those in marginalized communities can be a difficult process. “You can go and write about digital divides, but it’s different when you actually see it. You can write about it, but there's really nothing you can do. You can listen to people's stories and try to write something about their experiences and their problems, their challenges. But that's literally all you can do. You can't really give them what they want. What’s important is for you to be honest with them and to take their story somewhere.”
One of his goals in his research and teaching is to bring non-Western knowledge to the West and normalize journalism from citizens, the community, and non-traditional sources to extract the stories and information that are currently under the radar. “Being in the West does not make you an expert anymore,” he said. “Sometimes you need to listen to other people. Maybe you know it from your perspective, but they also know it from their perspective. None of us knows it all. I’m trying to bring these perspectives from different parts of the world into the Western market. And maybe, we can learn and become better.”
Looking ahead, Mutsvairo is optimistic about the future of community-engaged research and the trajectory of community-based research in Europe. “I think community engagement is becoming really big here in Europe, I really think this is the future [and] I think Simon Fraser University is already at the forefront,” he noted.
“It's great to do research, but your research needs to have an impact on society. And I think this is where CERi comes in. It's powerful. There are experienced people who've been doing this for quite a long time. I feel like we can tap into their experience, and hopefully, we can work together to try and build long-lasting friendships and collaborations that are mutually beneficial to our universities.”