R.L. (Rachel Lara) van der Merwe, PhD
Rachel Lara van der Merwe is an assistant professor in the Centre for Media and Journalism Studies at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. She received a Ph.D. in Media Research and Practice from the University of Colorado Boulder, where she remains a Research Fellow at the Center for Media, Religion, and Culture. She has an MA in Cultural Studies, with a concentration in media studies, from Claremont Graduate University. Prior to graduate school, Rachel studied film/TV/radio production and completed a minor in psychology. Her first feature film “Cicada” was shot in Japan and won awards at the Heartland Film Festival, LA Asian Pacific Festival, and Guam International Film Festival. She has also produced several music videos that have premiered on SPIN, Pitchfork, and mtvU.
Rachel’s research explores the intersection of digital and screen media, national identity, ecopolitics, and coloniality—particularly within South Africa and the Global South. Her current project, “We are not South African”, is a decolonial critique of national identity as a fundamentally broken form of mediation by which communities and individuals make sense of their belonging in the world. This project reflects her larger interest in how various processes of mediation, through technology (especially digital), language, or the body, reveal deep human anxieties over identity and belonging. Other research projects include work on video games as an extension of coloniality and analyses of outer space ventures as new iterations of imperialism. Her work has been published in Communication, Culture, and Critique; Cultural Studies; and Participations, and she has two recent book chapters about digital media in South Africa for Routledge and Palgrave Macmillan volumes.
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