SUMMARY:Middle Eastern politics and its regional, transnational and global import occupy a central position in popular and scholarly literature. Yet existing analyses generally focus on political figures, entities and/or practices.
This panel tackles the (re)production and circulation of political narratives in the Middle East through the prism of objects, spaces and voices, and explores the complex web of interrelationships between modernity, Westernization and the public sphere. Drawing on Bourdieu's notions of "symbolic goods" (1985) and "symbolic power" (1991), and Hall's conceptualization of representational practice as enmeshed with power relations (1985), it examines political narratives about development and modernization, technological progress, political mobility and identity, networked public sphere, gender and social relations in communicative spaces.
The panel takes an interdisciplinary approach and explores the roles played by objects (e.g. the car and the fighter jet), spaces (e.g. terrestrial, public, online and outer space) and voices (e.g. military officers, high-level bureaucrats, women, media producers and users) to discuss the attendant political narratives in different historical periods and geographies.
Some of the questions the panel addresses are the following: What are the factors that underwrite the emergence of certain objects as symbols of modernity, Westernization, political identity and mobility? How do these objects shape interpersonal and class relations and identity in the public sphere? Who are the institutional agents that assume the role of the "great modernizer" in regards Western technology and progress, and thus claim political legitimacy? Which objects and professional classes are subsumed under the development and modernization campaigns? How do they shape the experiences of space, distance and time as well as responses to desires, emotions and consumer tendencies? In what ways do these experiences and responses intersect with gender roles in public spaces and the communicative sphere? What roles do media institutions play vis a vis political identity?