Too Rude To Be Citizens: Arab Apostates on Talk Shows

By Natalie Khazaal
Submitted to Session P5194 (Doubt and Faith in Islam and Judiasm, 2018 Annual Meeting
Arab States;
Cultural Studies;
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
This paper explores the political, social, and cultural contexts of an emerging trend in global Arab communities and the role of the media in addressing it. The last decade has witnessed a shocking surge of apostates (especially since the Arab uprisings of 2010), despite the fact that many Arabs consider publicly disclosing this type of apostasy taboo and many states criminalize it. As part of a movement to normalize public apostasy, apostates’ appearance on television talks shows stirs controversy about their right to be citizens. The notion of im/politeness constitutes one of the tests for inclusion during these heated debates. Drawing from research on apostasy, im/politeness, citizenship, television genre theory, and hypermedia space, this cultural study explores how notions of im/politeness inform negotiations of citizenship on talk shows. I analyze a corpus of over 100 talk show broadcasts, created and consumed by a transnational Arab community, and the hypermedia space that commented on these broadcasts. I conclude that notions of im/politeness affect the way media itself operates when linked to divisive issues like public apostasy.

This study, which addresses the intersection of communication studies, cultural studies, and socio-linguistics, makes the following contributions: it extends the literature on im/politeness in the media to poorly researched cultures and critical topics like minority rights in a much needed effort to globalize the field and link it to current debates in cultural and communications studies; it offers an innovative interdisciplinary approach to understanding the role of im/politeness within issues like apostasy that divide societies deeply through the study of hypermedia space and its various participants; it demonstrates the continuing importance of ‘old’ media through hypermedia space, in fact responding to Kraidy’s and Mourad’s (2010: 13) call for “theoretically informed, empirically based studies that explore the social and political implications of hypermedia space in concrete contexts”; it demonstrates that only concerted efforts among socio-linguistics, communications and cultural studies will ensure a deeper understanding of the links among im/politeness, media, and public identity, as well as their relationship to cleavages in contemporary societies.