Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Critical Studies in Media Communication 29:4 (October 2012), pp. 331–347.

doi: 10.1080/15295036.2011.645843


Copyright © 2012 National Communication Association; published by Routledge/Taylor & Francis. Used by permission.


This essay examines the reformulation of colonial ideologies in National Geographic Channel’s Locked Up Abroad, a documentary program that chronicles the narratives of Westerner travelers incarcerated in foreign nations. An analysis of Locked Up Abroad evinces neocolonialism in contemporary media culture, including the historic association between dark-skin and savagery, the backwardness of the non-Western world, and the Western imperative to civilize it. The program’s documentary techniques and framing devices sustain an Otherizing gaze toward non-Western societies, and its portrayals elide a critical analysis of colonialism in its present forms. I advocate for neocolonial criticism to trace how NatGeo remains haunted by its own history in support of America’s civilizing mission.