Religion in the Media: Canada and Brazil
This project will focus on the following research questions:
1) How do the mainstream media (specifically newspapers) in Canada and Brazil portray and represent majority and minority religions in secular context?
2) Are there key areas of controversy in which such portrayals and representations are focused, and do these differ in the two countries?
3) Can common methodological resources and comparable data sets be developed to allow comparison to be undertaken?
The main objective of this project will be to develop a data set on religion and the media in Brazil that will then be compared to a data set being developed under an ongoing research initiative within the Religion and Diversity Project that examines religion and the media in Canada.
Over the past two years under the Religion and Diversity Project, researchers at the universities of Ottawa, Dalhousie and Montréal have developed a database of media representations of religious identities and diversity within Canadian media. Although still in progress, this data base has a defined set of search terms, a particular set of date parameters, and clear research questions which have been developed drawing on research from our sister teams in Sweden and England. To date, our plans for comparative analysis have included those countries, however we would like to extend our comparison to Brazil, which will, we believe, provide us with a unique opportunity to better understand the varieties of ways that the media constructs religion.
The MITACS Globalink opportunity would provide an additional point of comparison for the existing project on media and religion by integrating media files from Brazilian news sources. Although vastly different in many ways, there is much to be learned about diversity and its negotiation by bringing these two countries into comparative focus. Despite their differences, both countries confront the basic question of how to make room for religious identity and diversity within a national framework, in a manner that is fair and helps to minimize conflict. Canada and Brazil have both struggled to develop legislation and policy that addresses religious diversity and both countries face the problem of balancing these efforts in terms of individuals, groups and the pursuit of a national identity. Both countries also struggle with the majority-minority structure as a way of realizing genuine equality between religious groups, as this structure problematically assumes the dominance of a particular community but also seems to be indispensable in safeguarding the rights of non-dominant religious groups.
Media coverage of religion is increasingly being scrutinized in light of misconceptions of religious groups and identity, and additionally with an eye to sensationalism and moral panics. The first step is to expand the media database to include Brazilian news coverage. This will lay foundation for future analysis regarding understanding, misconceptions and management of diversity and the relationship of media to national debates about religious diversity and accommodation. The data sets resulting from this collaboration will be made available through the Religion and Diversity Project website, www.religionanddiversity.ca, allowing other researchers access to the media collections that will be produced through this initiative.