Past Event

A talk by Wazhmah Osman (Media and Communication, Temple University)

January 27, 2021
5:00 PM - 6:30 PM
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Organized by the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality and co-sponsored by the South Asia Institute and the South Asia Journalists Association of the Columbia Journalism School.

Portrayed in Western discourse as tribal and traditional, Afghans have intensely debated women's rights, democracy, modernity, and Islam as part of their nation building in the post-9/11 era. Wazhmah Osman places television at the heart of these public and politically charged clashes while revealing how the medium also provides war-weary Afghans with a semblance of open discussion and healing. Fieldwork from across Afghanistan allowed Osman to record the voices of Afghan media producers and people from all sectors of society. Afghans offer their own seldom-heard views on the country's cultural progress and belief systems, their understandings of themselves, and the role of international interventions. Osman looks at the national and transnational impact of media companies like Tolo TV, Radio Television Afghanistan, and foreign media giants and funders like the British Broadcasting Corporation and USAID. By focusing on local cultural contestations, productions, and social movements, Television and the Afghan Culture Wars redirects the global dialogue about Afghanistan to Afghans and thereby challenges top-down narratives of humanitarian development.

Wazhmah Osman is a filmmaker and Assistant Professor in the Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University.  She is a faculty member in the Master of Science in Globalization and Development Communication program and the PhD program in Media and Communication; and is a faculty affiliate of the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (GSWS) program, and at the South Asia Center at University of Pennsylvania.  Osman earned her PhD in 2012 from New York University, where she studied Media, Culture and Communication, and was a graduate of the Culture and Media program of the Anthropology Department.  Her research and teaching are rooted in feminist media ethnographies that focus on the political economy of global media industries and the regimes of representation and visual culture they produce.  Her critically acclaimed documentary, Postcards from Tora Bora, has been shown in festivals around the world.  Her most recent publication, Television and the Afghan Culture Wars: Brought to You by Foreigners, Warlords, and Activists was published in November 2020 by the University of Illinois Press. She is the coauthor, with Robert Crews, of the upcoming Afghanistan: A Very Short Introduction. 

Manijeh Moradian is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College.  She received her PhD in American Studies from NYU and her MFA in creative nonfiction from Hunter College, CUNY.  Her book, This Flame Within: Iranian Revolutionaries in the United States, is forthcoming from Duke University Press. Her essays and articles have appeared in Routledge Handbook of the Global Sixties, Scholar & Feminist Online, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Comparative Studies of South Asian, Africa, and the Middle East, Social Text online,,, Bi Taarof, and Callaloo. She is a member of the Iran Page editorial board at Jadaliyya and a founding member of Raha Iranian Feminist Collective.