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Even Arab Media Trapped By Anti-Muslim Frames

March 9, 2014

Academic PerspectiveHere’s an interesting article from the Asian Journal of Communication.

It has long been argued (including by me in my article “Making Global News”) that once frames are fully established and widely disseminated, it is extremely difficult to write outside them.

According to this article, which analyzes terrorism coverage in Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, even these news programs can’t escape the “Muslim as Terrorist” trope, which implies (falsely) that most, if not all contemporary terrorists are Muslims.

The best they can do is counter it with an additional (true) message: that the majority of victims of terrorism are Muslims.

Here’s the abstract:

This study examines the coverage of terrorism in two leading Arab news websites, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya from 11 September 2009 to 10 September 2010. It finds that the stereotype that ‘the terrorist is a Muslim’ continues in terrorism coverage, despite the fact that some terrorists are non-Muslims. However, the two sites manage to send out the message that ‘the majority of terrorism victims are Muslims.’ In addition, the findings reveal that too much media focus is placed on disseminating and supporting official positions and decisions, and humanitarian sufferings from terrorism are seldom brought to the attention of the public.

References:

Peterson, Mark Allen. 2007.  “Making Global News: ‘Freedom of Speech’ and ‘Muslim Rage’ in U.S. Journalism”  Contemporary Islam: Dynamics of Muslim Life 1(3): 247-264.

Zeng, Li, and Khalaf Tahat. 2012. Picturing terrorism through Arabic lenses: a comparative analysis of Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. Asian Journal of Communication 22(5): 433-448

Article Analyzes On-Line Discourse About Lara Logan’s Sexual Assault

March 4, 2014
People used blogs and other on-line spaces to critically contest news accounts of Lara Logan's rape, according to a new article in Feminist media Studies journal. Photo Credit: k-ideas via Compfight cc

People used blogs and other on-line spaces to critically contest news accounts of Lara Logan’s sexual assault, according to a new article in Feminist Media Studies journal. Photo Credit: k-ideas via Compfight cc

A new article in Feminist Media Studies analyzes the ways bloggers and on-line commenters have used these electronic spaces to contest “blame the victim” narratives used in constructing news reports about Lara Logan’s sexual assault in Tahrir Square in Egypt.

CBS correspondent Lara Logan was assaulted while reporting on the post-Mubarak celebrations in Tahrir Square  on 11 February 2011.

On May 1, 2011 CBS 60 Minutes (for which she is a correspondent) broadcast an interview with her about the incident. Logan said that she was speaking out to help end the code of silence surrounding sex assaults on female journalists. You can see the interview here.

I can’t read the article–there is an 18 month embargo for this journal at my library because Taylor and Carfax charges so damn much for access to their journals–but I’m curious about the claims.

Read more…

Farha Ghannam on Masculinity in Egypt

February 25, 2014
Men make their own masculinity, but they do not make it as they please; they make it in social contexts, in dialogue with others, including women, and with the resources provided by their social and cultural circumstances, says Farha Ghannam in her new book, Live and Die Like a Man: Gender Dynamics in Urban Egypt (Stanford, 2014).

Men make their own masculinity, but they do not make it as they please; they make it in social contexts, in dialogue with others, including women, and with the resources provided by their social and cultural circumstances, says Farha Ghannam in her new book, Live and Die Like a Man: Gender Dynamics in Urban Egypt (Stanford, 2014).

What is it like to be a man in the Middle East?

Raising three daughters in Cairo, I spent a lot of time observing differences in child raising not only between between Egyptians and Americans, broadly conceived, but between various intersections of class, religion and sex. Some of my discoveries are articulated in the fourth and fifth chapters of Connected in Cairo.

Over and over again I heard boys and young men’s behavior regulated with admonitions like “Khalik gada!” (Be a man!). Ruguula, manhood, is a central life problematic.

With her new book Live and Die Like a Man: Gender Dynamics in Urban Egypt (Stanford, 2014), Farha Ghannam has offered an extended ethnographic exploration of masculinity in the Middle East. It’s a wonderful, readable account that will become a standard work on gender in Egypt.

This book is important for a number of reasons, of which I’ll emphasize two:

First, the study of gender in the Middle East — as in most places– has been largely approached by focusing on women. While this work has helped counter many stereotypes of women as passive and powerless, it has had the unfortunate consequence of rendering masculinity unproblematic. Male becomes the “unmarked category,” the norm against which the female other is assessed.

Second, this approach ignores the ways in which gender is mutually constructed. Both masculinity and femininity are shaped by general structures of patriarchy but the agents through which this structure shapes individual males and females in particular ways are people, and usually the people closest to you: it is not only fathers but mothers who make their sons men; brothers not only watch and watch over sisters, those sisters’ speech and actions help form the brother’s behavior in both broad and subtle ways (indeed, the very act of “watching over” a sister forces men to confront their own masculinities in various ways).

Farha Ghannam approaches this problem of masculinity in two ways.

Read more…

Learning About Political Change from Pious Egyptian Women

February 18, 2014
Can an understanding of the agency of pious Muslim women teach us lessons about political change generally? Leslie Lewis thinks so.

Can an understanding of the agency of pious Muslim women teach us lessons about political change generally? Anthropologist Leslie Lewis thinks so.

Leslie Lewis reflects on the nature of women’s personal piety and how it can be an agent of political and social change in an article in the most recent issue of Anthropology News.

The pious Muslim women she studied in 2006 sought to discipline themselves, and one another, to make themselves better people in the eyes of God. Besides dress, comportment and prayer, many devoted time to caring for the poor. In the process, they transformed Egyptian society “toward greater gender segregation, public expressions of piety, and social conservativism.”

We can learn a lot, Lewis says, from thinking about such women, and what they accomplish.

Her conclusions:

Read more…

“Happy” In The Maghreb: Who Scores On The Pharrell Williams Index?

February 7, 2014
Tunisia and Egypt are not excluded from the global wave of "Happy" videos.

Tunisia and Egypt are not excluded from the global wave of “Happy” videos.

Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy” first appeared in the soundtrack of “Despicable Me 2” but he’s done a lot with it since. It’s been an global hit, and nominated for an Academy Award for best song.

When he released the single version, he also unveiled the website 24hoursofhappy.com offering “the world’s first 24 hour music video“. This consists of the four-minute song repeated with various people dancing and miming along including a number of celebrity cameos including Steve Carell, Miranda Cosgrove, Jamie Foxx, Magic Johnson, JoJo, Jimmy Kimmel, Sérgio Mendes, Ana Ortiz, Odd Future and Kelly Osbourne. Williams appears every hour, and the minions from “Despicable Me 2″ also make multiple appearances.

An official four-minute edit of the video was also released on YouTube.

Making “Happy” Videos

The site, and the 4-minute official video, inspired people around the world to produce their own local versions. “We Are Happy in …” videos have appeared from Moscow, Paris, Krakow, Hong Kong and dozens of other places.

Including the Maghreb.

I first heard about them in Tunisia on PRI. Magharebia News site says the first was shot shot in Bizerte. A quick search on-line revealed additional videos filmed in Tunis, Carthage, Sousse, Monistir, Issep Kef, Nabeul, Beja, and Kairouan.

Here’s the one from Bizerte:

There’s also a Moroccan version:

What about Egypt?

Read more…

Bread, Freedom and Social Justice in a Sufi Khidma

February 3, 2014
Academic Perspective

What can we learn about Tahrir Square by seeing it through the allegory of the khidma?

Here on this blog, and in two forthcoming papers, I have been writing about the spirit of Tahrir Square during the 18-days of uprisings in 2011 using terms from anthropological theory such as antistucture, liminality and communitas, non-space and so forth.

There’s another theoretical tradition in anthropology that seeks to understand phenomena analogously with other phenomena from the same cultural system. This is the approach taken by Amira Mittermaier in a new article in the journal Cultural Anthropology.

Entitled “Bread, Freedom, Social Justice: The Egyptian Uprising and a Sufi Khadima” the article does as the title suggests: seeks to understand Tahrir Square and the spirit of the uprising in terms of the Sufi notion of a khidma, “a space, often close to a saint’s shrine, where food and tea are served and guests find a place to rest or sleep.”

The khidma is not only a model of the kind of qualitative space that Tahrir was, but it also articulates forms of interactivity–sharing, cooperating, seeking justice–that were definitive of Tahrir as a “utopian” cultural space. She argues that

Read more…

Three Ways Activists in Egypt Use Social Media

February 3, 2014
Academic Perspective

What kinds of things are political activists doing with social media in the post-Tahrir era?

Information technology scholar Ramesh Srinivasan published a new article on the ways political activists across the spectrum–from the Muslim Brotherhood to democratic youth groups to pro-military types–are using social media in the post-Tahrir era.

Entitled “What Tahrir Square Has Done for Social Media: A 2012 Snapshot in the Struggle for Political Power in Egypt,” the article has been published in the latest issue of The Information Society.

According to Srinivasan, activists are using social media:

Read more…

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