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Wasta, Work and Corruption in Transnational Business

April 14, 2014
When does using your social relations in management become "corruption? Photo Credit: Interact Egypt - Play Innovation via Compfight cc

Thinking about wasta: When does using your social relations in management become “corruption”? Photo Credit: Interact Egypt – Play Innovation via Compfight cc

I recently read an article on wasta and “corruption” in international business that got me thinking about some of the problems of framing complex cultural ideas in overly simplified ways.

In my Intercultural Relations class, I offer a detailed case study of a businessman (whom I will call Girgis since that’s what I call him in another context in Chapter Six of Connected In Cairo).

Girgis worked for a company that insisted as part of their global corporate culture that there be no “corruption.” Six years after opening its office in Egypt, they continued to be plagued by behaviors they understood to be “corrupt.”

A particular problem seemed to be nepotism. Every time an Egyptian manager was hired, he began filling new slots in the company with relatives, and the children of friends. This was contrary to corporate policy and so these managers had to be rotated out or fired.

The company thought it had found a solution in Girgis.

Born in Egypt, Girgis had come to the U.S. for college, married an American woman and stayed to complete an MBA, then joined the company. He had risen through the ranks with stellar performance evaluations, and was currently a branch manager in New York state. Fluent in Arabic as well as English, cosmopolitan and equally at home in the US and the Middle East, the company thought he would be the solution to their problem.

Yet within his first year, the regional supervisor discovered that Girgis had appointed a cousin with little prior experience to an important management position without doing a open search. When confronted, Girgis told his supervisor, “In the U.S., this would be corruption. Here, it’s wasta.” When they pressed him further, Girgis became evasive and asked if they wanted his resignation.

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Egyptian Bibliography Updated

April 11, 2014
Photo Credit: risaikeda via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: risaikeda via Compfight cc

The Bibliography resource on the Egyptian uprisings has been updated.

The bibliography now includes over 675 references.

Updates include articles from such journals as Pragmatics, Feminist StudiesFeminist Media StudiesThird World Quarterly, Media, Culture and SocietyJournal of Communication Inquiryand many others.

It also now includes books like Farhad Khosrokhavar’s The New Arab Revolutions That Shook the World, Al-Zubaidi and Cassel’s Diaries of an Unfinished Revolution, Are Knudsen and Basem Ezbidi’s Popular Protest in the New Middle East, Paul Gerbaudo’s Tweets and the Streets, and Manuel Castell’s Networks of Outrage and Hope.

General As-Sisi Announces His Bid For President of Egypt (Full Text)

March 31, 2014
Photo Credit: Abode of Chaos via Compfight cc

Abdel Fattah As-Sisi announced he will doff his uniform and run for president of the Arab Republic of Egypt. Photo Credit: Abode of Chaos via Compfight cc

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.

Proud and honorable people of Egypt, today I stand before you in my military uniform for the last time. I have decided to end my service as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and the Minister of Defense and Military Production.

I have spent my entire career as a soldier of this homeland serving its hopes and aspirations, and I shall continue in this course.

This is a very significant moment for me. The first time I wore military uniform was in 1970 as 15-year-old cadet at the Air Force High School, almost 45 years ago. And I take pride in wearing this uniform to defend my country. Today I am taking off this uniform to defend this homeland as well.

These recent years of our nation’s history have shown conclusively that nobody can become president of this country against the will of the people or without their full support. No one can force Egyptians to vote for a president they do not want. This is a fact.

Therefore, I humbly come before you to announce my intention to run for president of the Arab Republic of Egypt. Only your support will grant me this great honor.

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Revolutionary Feminism In North Africa: An Interdisciplinary Journal Looks At Women, Gender and the Arab Spring

March 30, 2014
Revolutionary feminism, freed from its ties to the state, offers a purer feminist agenda--but is it any more effective? Photo Credit: Gigi Ibrahim via Compfight cc

Revolutionary feminism, freed from its ties to the state, offers a purer feminist agenda–but is it any more effective? Photo Credit: Gigi Ibrahim via Compfight cc

A new special issue of the Journal of North African Studies features a series of articles on “Women, Gender and the Arab Spring.”

In her introduction to the volume, Andrea Khalil argues that the Arab Spring has seen a shift in feminist politics from a situation in which state-sponsored women’s organizations sought to solve “the woman question”–an effort which “lacked a real feminist agenda and exacerbated the difficult conditions of rural and poor women”–to a decentralized, non-institutional activism through which “popular pressures have been applied to the new governments by a wide range of groups of women whose opinions are redefining how constitutional and legal language treats gender in newly debated definitions of national identity.”

The issue contains two papers specifically on Egypt.

The first is “The revolution shall not pass through women’s bodies: Egypt, uprising and gender politics” by Sherine Hafez. Exploring the changing meanings of women’s bodies in modern Egypt, she looks at Aliaa’s al-Mahdy’s naked activism, the woman in the blue bra, and Samira Ibrahim’s lawsuit against the forced virginity test imposed on her by SCAF to see what women’s bodies can mean in revolutionary times.

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Al Jazeera and Citizen Journalism

March 19, 2014
Was the incorporation of citizen-produced content into its news coverage of the Egyptian uprising part of the secret of Al-Jazeera's success? A new analysis says yes.

Was the incorporation of citizen-produced content into its news coverage of the Egyptian uprising part of the secret of Al-Jazeera‘s success? A new analysis says yes.

Al Jazeera has much less social capital than it used to, since Qatar began using its money to promote political causes in the Middle East and the station has come to be seen as a shill for those causes.

Still, its coverage of the Egyptian crisis was extraordinary and courageous by any measure, and may have played a significant role in the success of the revolution.

A new article by Diane Bossio in the journal Media Asia suggests that part of Al-Jazeera’s formula for success during the protests was its incorporation into its coverage of material produced by people in the Square and elsewhere.

“Citizen Journalism” can mean a range of things from independent journalists whose work is funded by the readers of their material to web sites that publish widespread rumors and many other things. The most common usage seems to involve  professional journalists–which essentially means journalists working for media corporations or state media–incorporating the work of non-professional citizens into their broadcasting.

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Musings On Media Ecologies (In The Middle East)

March 13, 2014
Photo Credit: Gigi Ibrahim via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Gigi Ibrahim via Compfight cc

Thanks to Wikipedia, I’m now an expert on “media ecologies” (?!). I have another piece on “New Media in the Middle East” coming out next year in which I discuss the term again, so I decided to blog about what I mean by the term.

The way I use the term,  media ecology “refers to the dynamic, complex system in which media technologies interact with each other and with other social and cultural systems within a particular social field, and the ways these interrelationships shape the production, circulation, transformation and consumption of images, texts and information within this system (Peterson 2011).”

The concept of ecology, applied to media, seems to me a no-brainer. “Media” is obviously plural, and every medium and media type exists in complex interactions with other media. Media have infrastructural elements that depend on, and are integrated with, other infrastructural elements (power grid, transportation). People have beliefs about media, and how they should be used, and these inform their actual media practices (although not always in straightforward ways). All these relations are systemic in nature such that changes to one part of the system are likely to induce changes in other parts of the system.

In other word, an ecology.

Ecologies and Determinism

Focusing on the ways that media technologies are introduced, and the necessary adaptations of infrastructure, social relations, political institutions and cultural practices that result, requires us to consider communication practices as interactive systems.

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