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Prof Nicky Falkof – Media Studies Wits University: Emotion Directs Behaviour and Constructs Society

This week on Womanity-Women in Unity, Dr. Amaleya Goneos-Malka talks to Prof Nicky Falkof, who is a cultural studies scholar based in the Media Studies department at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Media is ubiquitous and takes multiple forms, that impact how individuals perceive themselves and others, construct their identities, and navigate their social worlds. Prof Falkof shares some insights into the themes of her academic qualifications; studying a Masters in critical theory with a dissertation on race and masculinity in 1980s action films and then studying an interdisciplinary PhD at the London consortium, which was a collaboration between the Tate Modern, The Science Museum and the Architectural Association.

Her current work explores the ways in which persistent negative emotions, like anxiety and fear intersect with race, particularly in urban areas and how these emotions structure social life. Part of her driving impulse is the desire to take emotional life seriously, because there is a trend where society tends to dismiss the way that we feel, but feelings are fundamentally the things that make us act the way that we do. She unpacks the collective emotions that define communities and influence behaviors, drawing on learnings from cities like Mexico City, where positive patriotism fosters a sense of unity and hope amidst adversity.

We discuss aspects of the Me-Too Movement, emphasising there isn’t a universal expression of feminism and that countries in the Global South have had long standing feminists that have been empowering women in ways that are relevant to their social constructs. Implanting an ideology from one hemisphere of the world into another, is not necessarily a solution if it doesn’t take cultural differences and contexts into consideration.

We also reflect on organisational systems as impediments to wide scale change and maintaining the status quo. Corporate, political and social systems that were designed by men tend to be operated by people that think like the system’s architects. This is one of the reasons why gender discrimination is still pervasive, even if some organisations have women at their helm.

In closing the conversation Prof. Falkof emphasises that change doesn’t materialise unless we make it happen.

Tune in for more.

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