[P4802] Mass Media in Middle East Historiography

Created by Andrew Simon
Tuesday, 11/21/17 1:00pm


Scholars have shed no shortage of ink on social media and its significance in the aftermath of the uprisings that shook the Middle East a few years ago. Indeed, a quick survey of recent scholarship reveals that Facebook, Twitter, and other online communities have supplanted al-Jazeera as the subject of choice for many studies on the region’s media. Although offering important insights into the intersections of activism, authoritarianism, and contemporary politics, these works collectively lend the impression that only the most recent media matter in Middle East studies. The speakers on this panel strive to enrich this body of literature and to reorient discussions of media in the Middle East by expanding the conventional parameters of its study. Specifically, we will look beyond the Internet to earlier technologies whose impact remains largely unknown. In so doing, we will consider what a historically rigorous discussion of print, audio, and visual technologies may contribute to our understanding of the Middle East. To accomplish this aim, this panel will revolve around four case studies spanning the 20th century.

The first paper, “Between Reality and Fiction,” focuses on the accurate interpretation and practical uses of mass-produced images from the early Turkish Republican popular press. The second paper, “The Reel 1940s,” attends to Iran’s cinema politics during and after World War II to investigate the role of international films in the formation of public opinions, the bolstering of war propaganda, and the shaping of sentiments for a sovereign country and national cinema. The third paper, “Vulgarizing Sounds,” explores how the widely-ranging material circulating on audiotapes in Egypt led many local commentators to argue that “crass” cassettes were poisoning public taste in an effort to dictate who created “culture” and what constituted “art” during a time of tremendous change. Lastly, the fourth paper, “Touch Your Screen and be Healed!,” charts the development of Christian television in the Middle East and engages a program led by a Pentecostal Lebanese-American minister as a starting point for reconsidering Arab televangelism.

Several questions guide these presentations. Why, for instance, is the history of everyday technologies important? What fresh insights may the historical study of mass media contribute to Middle East scholarship? And how may historians challenge the tendency of their peers to treat media technologies as objects without histories? By addressing these inquiries, speakers will contribute to larger debates on popular culture, nation-building, and subject formation in Middle East studies.





Febe Armanios

(Middlebury College)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Jonathan Smolin

(Dartmouth College)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

Nahid Siamdoust

(New York University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Yasemin Gencer

(Independent Scholar)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Golbarg Rekabtalaei

(North Carolina State University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Andrew Simon

(Dartmouth College)
I am a social historian of the modern Middle East, with a particular focus on popular culture, everyday technologies, and the study of sound. I hold a B.A. in Arabic, Middle East, and Islamic Studies from Duke University and was a fellow at the Center...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;