Meenakshi Gigi Durham

Meenakshi Gigi Durham is a distinguished scholar, professor and writer. Durham was born in Mangalore, India but moved to the United States and then Canada at a young age. She is employed at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Iowa's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.[1] Durham is currently a joint Professor of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies as well as the Dean for Outreach and Engagement for The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences [2] She was previously a Faculty Fellow in the Office of the Vice President for Research & Economic Development. She was also the Associate Faculty, Director of the Obermann Center of Advanced Studies, and she is a member of the board of directors for the Project of Rhetoric of Inquiry. [3]

Durham sits on the editorial boards of the Journal of Communication, Feminist Media Studies, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Communication, Culture & Critique and Sexualization, Media, and Society. From 2007-2016, she was executive editor of the Journal of Communication Inquiry.

Meenakshi Gigi Durham
Academic work
InstitutionsUniversity of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Main interestsMedia and the politics of the body


Undergraduate Degree

  • University of West Florida. Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Communication Arts, Magna cum laude. 1982 – 1984 [2]
  • Women's Christian College. Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.), Chemistry, with Math and Physics minors, First Class. 1977 – 1980 [2]

Master's degree

  • Louisiana State University. Master of Journalism, Journalism and Mass Communication. 1984 – 1985 [2]

    Doctorate Degree

    Current University

    • Associate Dean for Outreach & Engagement and Director of Diversity, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, University of Iowa
    • Professor and Collegiate Scholar of Journalism and Mass Communications and Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies at the University of Iowa [3]
    • Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications at University of Iowa [3]


Scholarly Work

Durham’s main focus of research is the representation of gender and sexuality in the media, issues of gender, sexuality, race, sexual violence and youth cultures. She predominantly focuses on the politics of the body [2]

Noteworthy Article

  • “Race and Gender Speaker Series with Meenakshi Gigi Durham” (2012) [2]


  • Durham, Meenakshi G. (1990). Is it all in the telling?: A study of the role of text schemas and schematic text structures in the recall and comprehension of printed news stories (Ph.D. thesis). University of Florida. OCLC 49246593.
  • Durham, Meenakshi G. (2009). The Lolita effect: the media sexualization of young girls and what we can do about it (2nd ed.). Woodstock, New York: Overlook Press. ISBN 9781590205945.
    • See also: Lolita and the sexualization of childhood. Pajamas Media. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  • Durham, Meenakshi G.; Kellner, Douglas M. (2012). Media and cultural studies: keyworks. (2nd ed) Malden, Massachusetts: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 9780470658086.
  • Durham, Meenakshi G. TechnoSex: technologies of the body, mediated corporealities, and the quest for the sexual self. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Under contract with University of Michigan Press.

Chapters in books

  • Durham, Meenakshi G. (1999), "Out of the Indian diaspora: mass media, femininity, and adolescence between two cultures", in Mazzarella, Sharon; Pecora, Norma O., Growing up girls: popular culture and the construction of identity (third ed.), New York: Peter Lang, pp. 193–208, ISBN 9780820440217.
  • Durham, Meenakshi G. (2002), "Girls, media, and the negotiation of sexuality: a study of race, class and gender in adolescent girls' peer groups", in Williams, Christine; Stein, Arlene, Sexuality and gender, Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell, pp. 304–320, ISBN 9780631222729.
  • Durham, Meenakshi G. (2007), "Myths of race and beauty in teen magazines: a semiological analysis", in Creedon, Pamela J.; Cramer, Judith, Women in mass communication (3rd ed.), Thousand Oaks, California: Sage, pp. 233–246, ISBN 9781412936958.
  • Durham, Meenakshi G. (2007), "Sex in the transnational city: discourses of gender, body and nation in the "New Bollywood"", in Creekmur, Corey; Sidel, Mark, Cinema, law, and the state in Asia, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 45–62, ISBN 9781403977519.
  • Durham, Meenakshi G. (2009), "Ethnic chic and the displacement of South Asian female sexuality in U.S. media", in Hammer, Rhonda; Kellner, Douglas, Media/cultural studies: critical approaches, New York: Peter Lang, pp. 501–515, ISBN 9780820495262.
  • Durham, Meenakshi G. (2011), "Constructing the "new ethnicities": media, sexuality and diaspora identity in the lives of South Asian immigrant girls", in Dines, Gail; Humez, Jean, Gender, race, and class in media: a critical reader, Thousand Oaks, California: Sage, pp. 389–398, ISBN 9781412974417.
  • Durham, Meenakshi G. (2012), "Girls, media, and the negotiation of sexuality: a study of race, class and gender in adolescent girls' peer groups", in Shaw, Susan; Lee, Janet, Women's voices, feminist visions: classic and contemporary readings (fifth ed.), New York: McGraw-Hill, ISBN 9780073512327.
  • Durham, Meenakshi G. (2013), "Chapter 8 Body matters: resuscitating the corporeal in a new media environment", in Carter, Cynthia; McLaughlin, Lisa, Current perspectives in feminist media studies, London New York: Routledge, ISBN 9780415540117.
  • Durham, Meenakshi G. (2013), "Children's technologized bodies: mapping mixed reality.", in Lemish, Dafna, The Routledge international handbook of children, adolescents and media, London New York: Routledge, pp. 156–164, ISBN 9780415783682.

Journal Articles

  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2015. “Children, the media, and the epistemic imperative of embodied vulnerability.” DOI: 10.1080/17482798.2015.1121895. Journal of Children and Media 10 , pp. 115-122.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2015. “Quvenzhané and the comedians: Black girlhood and sexuality at the ‘edge’ of comedy.” DOI: 10.1111/cccr.12099. Communication, Culture & Critique 8, pp. 505-521.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2015. “Scene of the crime: U.S. news discourse of rape in India and the geopolitics of sexual assault.” Feminist Media Studies 15, pp. 175-191.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2014. “Sexy girls, malevolent moms: Motherhood and the media sexualization of girls.” Media Report to Women, 42 , pp. 6-11.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2013. “Vicious assault shakes Texas town”: The politics of gender violence in The New York Times’ coverage of a schoolgirl’s gang rape. Journalism Studies 14, pp. 1-12.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2012. Blood, lust and love: Gender violence in the Twilight phenomenon. Journal of Children and Media, 6 , pp. 288-299.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi 2011. Body matters: Resuscitating the corporeal in a new media environment. Feminist Media Studies 11, 53-60. Reprinted in Lisa McLaughlin and Cynthia Carter (Eds.), Current Perspectives in Feminist Media Studies. (New York: Routledge, 2012), pp. 47-54.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2008. Media controversies around girls’ sexuality. Journal of Children and Media, 2, 79-80.
  • **Schaefer, Peter and Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2007. On the social implications of invisibility: The iMac G5 and the effacement of the technological object. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 24 , pp. 39-56
  • **Oates, Thomas P., & Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2004. The mismeasure of masculinity: The male body, race and power in the enumerative discourses of the NFL Draft. Patterns of Prejudice 38 , 301-320.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2004. Constructing the “new ethnicities”: Media, sexuality and diaspora identity in the lives of South Asian immigrant girls. Critical Studies in Media Communication 21, 140-161. Reprinted in Gail Dines and Jean Humez (Eds.), Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Text Reader, pp. 389-398 (New York: Routledge, 2011).
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2003. The girling of America: Reflections on gender and popular communication. Popular Communication 1, 23-31.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2001. Displaced persons: Symbols of South Asian femininity and the returned gaze in U.S. media culture. Communication Theory 11, 201-217.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2001. Adolescents, the Internet, and the politics of gender: A feminist case analysis. Race, Gender & Class 8, 20-41.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 1999. Girls, media, and the negotiation of sexuality: A study of race, class and gender in adolescent girls’ peer groups. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 76 , 193-216. Reprinted in Christine L. Williams and Arlene Stein (Eds.), Sexuality and Gender, pp. 304-320. (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2002). Reprinted in Susan Shaw and Janet Lee (Eds.), Women’s Voices: Feminist Visions. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006).
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 1999. Articulating adolescent girls’ resistance to patriarchal messages in mass media. Women’s Studies in Communication 22, 210-229.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 1998. On the relevance of standpoint epistemology to the practice of journalism: The case for “strong objectivity.” Communication Theory 8 , 117-140.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 1998. Revolutionizing the teaching of magazine design. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator 53 , 23-32.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 1998. Dilemmas of desire: The representation of adolescent sexuality in two teen magazines. Youth and Society 29 , 369-389.
  • Durham, Gigi. 1996. The taming of the shrew: Women’s magazines and the regulation of desire. Journal of Communication Inquiry 20 , 18-31.

Encyclopedia Articles [2]

  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2010. Cultural studies. In C. McIlwain and S. M. Callendo (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Race and Ethnicity. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2007. The sexualization of children. In J. J. Arnett (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Children, Adolescents and the Media, pp. 768-769. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2004. Sexuality and the subject. In G. Ritzer (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Social Theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Essays [2]

  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2015. India’s Daughter and the limits of transnational feminist solidarity. E-International Relations,
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2013. Mirror, mirror, on the wall: Struggling with body image. Your Teen 6(1), 22-23.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2012. Hunger Pangs. Essay published in The Iowa Review 42 (2), pp. 1-9. Nominated for inclusion in Best American Food Writing 2012.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2010. Grieving. Essay published in The Harvard Review (under the pen name Meenakshi G. Venugopal), Issue 39, pp. 190-199. Reprinted in Edwidge Danticat (Ed.), The Best American Essays 2011. New York: Houghton Mifflin, pp. 59-67.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2009, January 9. X-Rated America. The Chronicle of Higher Education, pp. B14-15.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2008, July 12. Lolita and the sexualization of childhood. Pajamas Media,
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2006. Response to Douglas Kellner. In Journal of Interdisciplinary Crossroads, 2(2): 253-260.

Short Stories [2]

  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2011. Someone like you. Short story published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, 137:5, pp. 31-39.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2008. Storm surge. Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, 133:3-4, pp. 83-89.
  • Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. 2004. The drum. Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, 124:6, 73-81.

Awards/Honors [2]

Durham's work has caught attention and she has been recognized publicly multiple times. She has appeared on The Dr. Phil Show, Irish National Television, BBC, Iowa Public Radio and Illinois Public Radio. Durham was featured in the popular documentary, “Miss Representation”, which was aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network. [2]

  • Faculty Research Award (1999-2000)
    • College of Communication, University of Texas at Austin
  • Academic Excellence Award in Instructional Technology (2000)
    • College of Communication, University of Texas at Austin
  • Outstanding Faculty Member (2003)
    • Society for Proessional Journalists Chapter Award
    • School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Iowa
  • Career Development Award (2006)
    • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Iowa
  • Precense in the 2011 Best American Essays Anthology (2010)
    • Recognition for her essay “Grieving”
    • Harvard Review
  • Obermann Scholar (2011 & 2006)
    • Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, University of Iowa
  • Collegiate Scholar Award (2012)
    • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Iowa
  • Faculty Administrative Fellowship (2013)
    • Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development
  • Nominee of Distinguished Achievement Award (2014)
    • Celebration of Women, University of Iowa
  • International Communication Association’s Teresa Award (2014)
    • Feminist Scholarship Division
    • International Communication Associations
    • College of Communication, University of Texas at Austin
  • Honors Thesis Mentor Award (2015)
    • University of Iowa Honors Program
  • President and Provost Teaching Excellence Award (2017)
    • Highest award for teaching, University of Iowa

See also


  1. ^ Durham, Meenakshi Gigi. "Meenakshi Gigi Durham, Joint Professor of Gender, Women's and Sexuality Studies (profile)". School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Iowa's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 27 July 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l School of Journalism & Mass Communication. (2017, January 11). Retrieved February 16, 2017, from
  3. ^ a b c Durham, M. (n.d.). LinkedIn: Meenakshi Durham. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from

External links

Encoding/decoding model of communication

The Encoding/decoding model of communication was first developed by cultural studies scholar Stuart Hall in 1973. Titled 'Encoding and Decoding in the Television Discourse', Hall's essay offers a theoretical approach of how media messages are produced, disseminated, and interpreted. As an important member of the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies, Hall had a major influence on media studies. His model claims that television and other media audiences are presented with messages that are decoded, or interpreted in different ways depending on an individual's cultural background, economic standing, and personal experiences. In contrast to other media theories that disempower audiences, Hall proposed that audience members can play an active role in decoding messages as they rely on their own social contexts, and might be capable of changing messages themselves through collective action.

In simpler terms, encoding/decoding is the translation of a message that is easily understood. When you decode a message, you extract the meaning of that message in ways that make sense to you. Decoding has both verbal and non-verbal forms of communication: Decoding behavior without using words means observing body language and its associated emotions. For example, some body language signs for when someone is upset, angry, or stressed would be a use of excessive hand/arm movements, red in the face, crying, and even sometimes silence. Sometimes when someone is trying to get a message across to someone, the message can be interpreted differently from person to person. Decoding is all about the understanding of what someone already knows, based on the information given throughout the message being received. Whether there is a large audience or exchanging a message to one person, decoding is the process of obtaining, absorbing, understanding, and sometimes using the information that was given throughout a verbal or non-verbal message.

For example, since advertisements can have multiple layers of meaning, they can be decoded in various ways and can mean something different to different people.

"The level of connotation of the visual sign, of its contextual reference and positioning in different discursive fields of meaning and association, is the point where already coded signs intersect with the deep semantic codes of a culture and take on additional more active ideological dimensions."


In critical theory, sociology, and psychoanalysis, the philosophic term the gaze (French le regard) describes the act of seeing and the act of being seen. The concept and the social applications of the gaze have been defined and explained by existentialist and phenomenologist philosophers; Jean-Paul Sartre, in Being and Nothingness (1943); Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975) developed the concept of the gaze to illustrate the dynamics of socio-political power relations and the social dynamics of society's mechanisms of discipline; and Jacques Derrida, in The Animal that Therefore I Am (More to Come) (1997) elaborated upon the inter-species relations that exist among animals and human beings, which are established by way of the gaze.

Male gaze

In feminist theory, the male gaze is the act of depicting women and the world, in the visual arts and in literature, from a masculine, heterosexual perspective that presents and represents women as sexual objects for the pleasure of the male viewer. In film and photograhy, the male gaze has three perspectives: (i) that of the man behind the camera, (ii) that of the male characters within the film's cinematic representations; and (iii) that of the spectator gazing at the image.The film critic Laura Mulvey coined the term male gaze, which is conceptually contrasted with the female gaze. As a way of seeing women and the world, the psychology of the male gaze is comparable to the psychology of scopophilia, the pleasure of looking; thus, the terms scopophilia and scoptophilia identify both the aesthetic pleasures and the sexual pleasures derived from looking at someone or something.

Mediation (Marxist theory and media studies)

Mediation (German: Vermittlung) in Marxist theory refers to the reconciliation of two opposing forces within a given society (i.e. the cultural and material realms, or the superstructure and base) by a mediating object. Similar to this, within media studies the central mediating factor of a given culture is the medium of communication itself. The popular conception of mediation refers to the reconciliation of two opposing parties by a third, and this is similar to its meaning in both Marxist theory and media studies. For Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, this mediating factor is capital or alternately labor, depending on how one views capitalist society (capital is the dominant mediating factor, but labor is another mediating factor that could overthrow capital as the most important one).

To give a concrete example of this, a worker making shoes in a shoe factory is not only producing shoes, but potential exchange-value. The shoes are commodities that can be sold for cash. In this way, the value of the labor of the worker is the exchange-value of the shoes he or she produces minus his or her compensation. At the same time, however, the shoes produced have certain social or cultural values as well. In this way, the worker’s labor is mediating between the economic or exchange-value of the shoes, and their social or cultural, or symbolic value.

In media studies, thinkers like Marshall McLuhan treat "the medium is the message" or the medium of a given social object (such as a book, CD, or television show) as the touchstone for both the cultural and material elements of the society in which this object exists. McLuhan is famous for critiquing the different types of cultural and material processes that are made available between print-based media (like books and magazines) and electronic media like television, radio, and film. While print requires thinking that is linear, chronological, and separate from the thinking of others, electronic media are considered more organic, simultaneous, and interdependent on other media and on other users of that media.

Many thinkers are now considering how Marxist theory affects the way we think of media and vice versa, at the same time that new media are becoming a major form of communication. Contemporary media theorists often use elements of Marxist theory, such as mediation, to look at how new media affect social relations and lifestyles through their ability to communicate images, sounds, and other forms of information across the globe at incredible speeds.

Oppositional gaze

Oppositional gaze is a political rebellion and resistance against the repression of black people's right to a gaze; and it is through these looking relations that independent black cinema develops. The phrase oppositional gaze was coined by feminist, scholar and social activist bell hooks in 1992. It is a work of feminist film theory, which criticizes the male gaze through Michel Foucault's 'relations of power'. hooks asserts "there is power in looking".The oppositional gaze encompasses modes of looking and looking back which employ reflexive gazes such as:

The shared gaze

The repressed gaze

White supremacist capitalist imperialist dominating gaze

Phallocentric gaze

Black male gaze

Interrogation gazes

Gaze of Recognition

The Lolita Effect

The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and What We Can Do About It is a 2008 book by Meenakshi Gigi Durham. The book's title refers to a term coined by Durham, the Lolita effect, which refers to the theory that media sexualization hinders the healthy development of pre-adolescent and adolescent girls. Its title is derived from Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita,where a middle-aged professor becomes obsessed with the titular 12-year-old girl. The term Lolita effect has since come to refer to the blame that can be put on young females for their part in abuse or harassment that they face; similar to the phrases “slut-shaming” or “victim-blaming.”

The book was first published by The Overlook Press.

Winx Club

Winx Club is an Italian animated television series created, directed, and produced by Iginio Straffi. It is set in a magical universe inhabited by fairies, witches, and other mythical creatures. The show follows a fairy warrior named Bloom as she enrolls at the Alfea College to train and hone her skills. The series is presented in a style that combines Japanese anime with Western animation. Common themes in Winx Club include romantic relationships and the transition to adulthood, juxtaposed with magic elements and action sequences.

Iginio Straffi conceived the show's concept in the late 1990s after working in the comic book industry. While developing the series, Straffi drew inspiration from manga and the comics of Sergio Bonelli. He consulted with Italian fashion designers to create a futuristic clothing style for the characters. Straffi's company, Rainbow, animated a pilot episode in 2000 and started production on a full season in 2002. In exchange for broadcast rights, Rai Fiction financed 25% of the show's budget, and the series' first episode premiered on Rai 2 on January 28, 2004.

Winx Club employs a serial format—modeled after those of American teen dramas—that follows an ongoing storyline, with individual story arcs comprising each season. Initially, Straffi planned for the plot to last three seasons, but he decided to continue the story following the show's success. In 2010, Nickelodeon became a co-producer of Winx Club, and its parent company Viacom gained 30% ownership of Rainbow in 2011. Production on the fifth and sixth seasons was divided between Rainbow and Nickelodeon Animation Studio. To attract an American audience, Viacom assembled a voice cast of Nickelodeon actors (including Elizabeth Gillies and Ariana Grande), invested US$100 million in advertising the series, and inducted Winx Club into Nickelodeon's franchise of Nicktoons.The series has been a ratings success in Italy and on Nickelodeon networks internationally. By 2014, Winx Club had been broadcast in over 150 countries worldwide. The series has developed a following among comic and fashion fans, and its portrayal of gender roles has generated academic interest. Critic reviews of the series have called attention to its themes of empowerment and positive relationships, as well as to the perceived sexualization of the character designs. Three theatrical films based on the series have been released, and the first two received David di Donatello Award nominations. The franchise has spawned two spin-off series and various forms of licensed merchandise, including a comic book serial, platform video games, and lines of fashion dolls. A live-action adaptation of Winx Club aimed at young adults was announced in 2018.

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