In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Indigenous Media

  • Introduction
  • The Global Indigenous Movement
  • Toward a Body of Theory
  • Defining Works
  • Distribution, Circulation, and Reception

Cinema and Media Studies Indigenous Media
Pamela Wilson, Joanna Hearne, Amalia Córdova, Sabra Thorner
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 May 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0229


Indigenous media may be defined as forms of media expression conceptualized, produced, and circulated by indigenous peoples around the globe as vehicles for communication, including cultural preservation, cultural and artistic expression, political self-determination, and cultural sovereignty. Indigenous media overlap with, and are on a spectrum with, other types of minority-produced media, and quite often they share a kinship regarding many philosophical and political motivations. Indigenous media studies allow us access to the micro-processes of what Roland Robertson has famously called “glocalization”—in this case, the interpenetration of global media technologies with hyperlocal needs, creatively adapted to work within and sustain the local culture rather than to replace it or homogenize it, as some globalization theorists have long feared. The scope of indigenous media studies, a growing field of interdisciplinary scholarship, is quite broad and extensive. We first present some core literature in the emerging field of indigenous media studies, followed by a handful of illustrative case studies. In the second main section, we provide focused attention on works dealing with some specific media genres: film and video production, radio and television broadcasting, and the emerging field of indigenous digital media. Next, we divide the field by geographic and cultural regions and areas, looking at significant work being done in and about indigenous media in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, Europe (including Russia and the Arctic North), Africa, and Asia. This Oxford Bibliographies article is partnered with that of the separate Oxford Bibliographies article “Native Americans,” and so we refer the reader to that article to avoid excessive duplication. In the spirit of much indigenous mediamaking, this was a collaborative production. The primary author, Pamela Wilson, wishes to thank her main collaborator, Joanna Hearne, who contributed expertise on North American indigenous media, particularly to the section on Indigenous Film and Video. Other significant contributors were Amalia Córdova on Latin America and Sabra Thorner on Australia.

The Global Indigenous Movement

What is distinctive about indigenous media are those characteristics at the core of the indigenous or aboriginal experience. The current understanding in international law about indigeneity includes cultural groups that can claim to have occupied and used the resources of a specific territory prior in time to other known occupants, that self-identify as a distinct culture, that voluntarily perpetuate cultural distinctiveness, and that have experienced “subjugation, marginalization, dispossession, exclusion, or discrimination, whether or not these conditions persist” (Wilson and Stewart 2008, p. 14; see also Kingsbury 1998). While the study of indigenous peoples has traditionally been in the domain of anthropology, indigenous media is now a significant focus of interdisciplinary study (including media and communication, ethnic studies, cultural studies, art history, geography, development studies, and political science) for those interested in the way that media technologies have been appropriated by small-scale, usually locally rooted, indigenous cultural groups throughout the world for a wide range of purposes, ranging from archiving of cultural knowledge to political activism to artistic expression. As Wilson and Stewart 2008, Salazar 2009, and Salazar 2007 indicate, the phenomenon of indigenous media must be placed within the context of the globalization process and, in particular, the international indigenous movement of the latter half of the 20th century, shepherded by agencies of the United Nations such as the Working Group on Indigenous Populations (1982–2006) and, since 2002, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (one of three current UN bodies with a specific mandate to address the rights of indigenous peoples; others are the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, founded in 2007, and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a position the international legal specialist James Anaya took over in 2008). The work of these international working groups led to the passing in September 2007 of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the UN General Assembly. Córdova 2005 reminds us that this international community is also deeply involved in efforts to fund indigenous media productions as well as to facilitate their circulation (see Distribution, Circulation, and Reception).

  • Córdova, Amalia. “The Money Problem.” In Special Issue: Indigenous Peoples Bridging the Digital Divide. Cultural Survival Quarterly 29.2 (Summer 2005).

    The primary challenge for indigenous media development, funding in Latin America and elsewhere—for training, production, and festivals—has come from (1) self-generated independent funds, (2) local grassroots community organizations, (3) state or national indigenous funds and grants, (4) international funding sources, and (5) nonprofits, foundations, and nongovernmental organizations.

  • Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 13 September 2007, ratified by 144 nations, with four nations (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States) refusing to ratify it. By the end of 2010, however, each of those nations had endorsed the Declaration.

  • Kingsbury, Benedict. “‘Indigenous Peoples’ in International Law: A Constructivist Approach to the Asian Controversy.” American Journal of International Law 92.3 (July 1998): 414–457.

    DOI: 10.2307/2997916

    Examines the various legal definitions of indigenous peoples within the international legal context and considers the implications of indigeneity for various ideologies and nation-states with varying historical relationships to internal minorities.

  • Salazar, Juan Francisco. “Self-Determination in Practice: the Critical Making of Indigenous Media.” Development in Practice 19.4–5 (June 2009): 513.

    Conveys the significance of the 2007 ratification of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples from a perspective of cognitive and media justice, and examines the links between development studies, indigenous social movements, and community media practices.

  • Salazar, Juan Francisco. “Indigenous People and the Communication Rights Agenda: A Global Perspective.” In New Media Worlds: Challenges for Convergence. Edited by V. Nightingale and T. Dwyer, 87–101. Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press, 2007.

    Discusses the principles of the global communication rights agenda and the World Summit on the the Information Society (WSIS) from a perspective of indigenous communication and media.

  • United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

    The Permanent Forum (UNPFII), established in 2002 to replace the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, serves as an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council and is mandated to “discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights” (para. 1).

  • Wilson, Pamela, and Michelle Stewart. “Introduction: Indigeneity and Indigenous Media on the Global Stage.” In Global Indigenous Media: Cultures, Poetics and Politics. By Pamela Wilson and Michelle Stewart, 1–35. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822388692-001

    Investigates the meanings associated with the concepts of indigenous and indigeneity in the context of the rise of an international indigenous activist movement working within international law and toward policies within nation-states to allow for indigenous sovereignty and self-determination.

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