Markus Ojala

Markus Ojala

  • University of Helsinki
Participant in 2009

Phd Projects


The construction of global imaginary in the Obama phenomenon

In the beginning of April 2009, political leaders gathered in London for the G20 summit, and under intense media attention, produced an agreement on the measures needed to tackle the global economic crisis. For some of the participants and observers, the plan signalled a radical realignment of domestic and international economic policies away from the doctrines of neo-liberalism. For critical commentators, the summit was nothing but a weak attempt to save a crumbling market system based on the unsustainable logic of growing inequality. However, the interesting aspect about the meeting, and its global media coverage, is the degree to which it manifested a shared understanding, or political imaginary, about the state of the world, the scope of possible policies and the normative grounds for state interventions. The purpose of my study is to look at the transnational diffusion of political ideas in the Western media. To what extent can we talk about a dominant world culture, understood as a set of political values, principles and world-views that are considered universally valid? The particular aim is to examine the Obama phenomenon on a global scale: did the election of Barack Obama create a new global political imaginary? The United States presidential election turned out to be one of the most significant media events of 2008 world-wide. Obama grew into a global media phenomenon, and the international election coverage reinforced the idea it was an event affecting all world citizens. Thus Obama became a symbolic expression of globally shared hopes, values and world-views. The Obama phenomenon also presents an opportunity to promote political goals and ideals. While cultural symbols play a significant role in the (re-)construction of social imaginary, they are also being exploited to legitimize political purposes. In this way, the ‘change’ symbolized in Obama becomes an object of political struggle of definition. By defining, debating, defending and propagating political norms and values media narratives render meaning to policy proposals, create political pressure and shape the social imaginaries of political agents. What are the main charasteristics of the political imaginary constructed in the narratives on Obama’s presidency? The analysis concentrates mainly on magazine articles covering Obama’s election campaign and first term as President. The plan is to examine the main political, economic and cultural periodicals published in the United States and internationally between 2004 and 2010.

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