Professor Ien Ang of the University of Western Sydney will receive an honorary doctorate from Erasmus University Rotterdam. She is considered one of the leading scholars within cultural studies. She stands out for her cross-disciplinary and socially relevant research. The awarding will take place during the 109th Dies Natalis at EUR with the topic: 'Resilient cities and societies for future generations'.
Why dismiss a popular soap opera as 'lower culture'? Honorary Doctor Ien Ang didn't want to do that in the 1980s because by doing so you discard millions of viewers. So in her 1982 book ‘Watching Dallas’, she engaged in a conversation with viewers of the then immensely popular series Dallas. "Popular culture is an important social phenomenon that you cannot ignore," explains honorary promoter Susanne Janssen, professor of Sociology of Media and Culture (Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication). "Ang did not judge viewers, but wanted to speak to fans herself to understand them better."
Pioneer in listening
According to Janssen, she was a pioneer in this form of media audience research, also known as reception studies. Her drive to take viewers seriously was strong, for instance, she even placed advertisements in magazines in the 1970s to connect with fans. Janssen: "At that time, media research was often still interpretative text research in which scientists determined from behind their desks what the viewer sees or should see. Ang realised that, above all, you have to listen to the audience itself and inspired many researchers to start working that way too."
Ien Ang is Distinguished Professor and Founding Director at the Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney. She has Chinese/Indonesian roots and grew up in the Netherlands where she obtained her PhD from the University of Amsterdam. Her other well-known works include 'Desperately seeking the audience' and 'On not speaking Chinese', which have been published in many languages. Her research in Australia earned Ang the Centenary Medal in 2001 for her 'merits to Australian society and humanities in cultural research'.
Involves different disciplines
Ang is one of the leading scientists in the field of cultural studies. According to Susanne Janssen, this is also because her work brings together different disciplines and major socio-cultural themes. "She is not stuck in one field or type of research. That makes her work very strong. For example, her book 'On not speaking Chinese' is about identity in times of globalisation and diaspora. In it, Ang has also incorporated her own experiences and connects insights from different fields."
This makes Ang, as an honorary doctor, a very obvious choice for the Erasmus initiative Vital Cities and Citizens and the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication. There, there is also plenty of collaboration between different disciplines on issues of globalisation, identity, migration, diversity, media and culture.
Moreover, according to Janssen, Ang's research fits into the EUR philosophy of making impact by working with societal partners. For example, she is currently working with a major museum in Sydney to actively involve residents in the development of the new Powerhouse museum. "Ien Ang is really an example in that too, and I think she is a role model in a lot of ways, especially for female scientists."