Arab Media and Issues of Politics and Culture

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Course Information
Political Science
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 


The course aims to provide the student with a thorough inside view of Arab media, a particularly useful exercise as these have undergone a profound transformation over the last 25 years. Assisted by technological advances in communication satellites and the internet, Arab media have developed significantly in scope, reach and maturity to a degree that they can offer the inside and outside observer or scholar a most nuanced way to make sense of the Middle East, replacing thus the historical and religious perspectives traditionally applied to the region by outsiders. This is because Arab media, both traditional and new, offer the best available reflector of the myriad transformations affecting the political, social, and cultural realms in the Arab region and beyond, notably among Arab diasporas in Europe and the United States. Arab/Muslim media did reflect some spectacular regional and international changes, from the 9/11 cataclysm and the first and second Gulf Wars to the Arab uprisings of 2011 and their ongoing aftershocks; at the same time, for good or ill, they played a crucial role in precipitating them, not without creating a new set of implications for media, politics, and culture in the region.  Another reason for all to heed the development of Arab media is its attempt and relative success to unseat the Western media perspective from its historical position as the sole purveyor of news and “common sense,” a challenge that enriches and problematizes the global media space.    In addition to the above, students will be exposed to a variety of related topics, most notably the issue of Arab media as a locus of power and contestation, in particular as they enter the digital phase, revolutionizing access and democratic participation on the one hand, and inviting new forms of state and corporate control on the other.    
Attendance policy: 

Class attendance is compulsory. Each student will be allowed only two unexcused absences throughout the course. For each unexcused absence beyond this there will be a reduction in the final grade. Students who are late to class on a regular basis will also receive a reduction in their final grade and/or disciplinary action.

Students should not exceed 2 absences in each (45 hours) content course.
Students should not exceed 4 absences in the (90 hours) Arabic language course.

Any additional absence would lower the grades as follows:
1 more absence = will lower the final grade by 5 %
2 more absences= will lower the final grade by 10 %
3 more absences = will lower the grade by 15 %
4 more absences = will lower the grade by 20 %

Any additional absences will continue to lower the final grade by 5% increments. 

Learning outcomes: 
This course will enable students to possess a thorough picture of the complexity of the Arab media system in action, allowing them to investigate and communicate about issues related to the Middle East and North Africa’s geopolitical, social and cultural concerns.    By the end of the course, students will be able to:
  • critically read, analyze and evaluate the Arab media space, past and present;
  • gain an understanding of the important role played by the media in Middle Eastern politics, culture and societies, as well as to be able to map this relationship;
  • situate the Arab media system vis-a-vis other media systems, in particular the Western media tradition, which is now more and more challenged by non-Western perspectives;
  • appreciate the preponderant role played by the media in the tussle for political power by various actors in the region, and at the same time, measure the potential for the media people and institutions to influence some of the dynamics of these contestations.
  • gain a comparative perspective through the relevance of Arab media interpretations and reactions to the US and European diplomatic drives in the MENA region, allowing thus a greater global awareness;
  • engage the students in focused and methodological dialogue of media relayed issues, such as islamophobia, radical transnational ideologies, and cross-cultural dialogue and cooperation.
Method of presentation: 

The course structure includes lectures, discussions, film screenings, readings, and critical analyses during which the professor will explain key aspects of the social, political and cultural contexts in the Arab region in relation to Media. Students will be encouraged to be involved and engaged; therefore they have to be prepared for every session by doing the required readings for the session and taking notes. 

Required work and form of assessment: 
Participation and attendance You are expected to attend every class session. If you miss a class with no valid and documented excuse, you will see your participation grade negatively affected. You are also expected to come to class fully prepared (homework and reading done), and ready to participate in discussions and other group activities.   Grading Your final grade will be determined by a final examination, participation, homework/assignments, and one documented essay as follows: The final grade of the course will be determined as follows:
  • Class participation - 10%
  • Assignments: Quizzes, and 2 summaries (500-600 words for each summary, for a total of a 1100 words) - 15%
  • In-Class Presentation - 15%
  • 2 Field Studies and Reports (500-600 words, each report) - 10%
  • Research Paper (2750 words) - 20%
  • Final Exam - 30%
  Class participation (10% of the grade): The professor will also value students’ positive and participatory attitude in class. Therefore, students’ participation in discussions, forums, tasks and any other class activities will be assessed.   Assignments (15% of the grade): These include exercises, group tasks, summaries, text commentaries, etc., required by the professor in class or through Moodle. Two summaries of teacher-assigned readings, totaling about 1000 words, are also required (the first is due on Week 4, the other on Week 10).   In-Class Presentation (15% of the grade): Each student is required to make an in-class presentation on one of the assigned readings or a related research topic, ranging in length from 15 to 20 minutes. The presenter’s role is not limited to reading (the slides) to the class; rather he or she should attempt to be spontaneous and offer insightful interpretations and appropriate linkages to the overall courses themes and/or the week’s material. The in-class presentation is worth 15% of the final grade for the course. The presentations will be assigned on Week 2.   Field studies and Reports (10% of the grade): 2 session will take place outside the classroom, in media organization or/and NGOs or specialized institutions. (Dates and venues to be determined) After each session, the students must write a short report (500-600 words) highlighting the connection between the field study activity and course content studied in class.   Final exam (30% of the grade): Students will be asked to answer theoretical questions and related media cases and phenomena on the ground from comparative, diachronic and synchronic perspectives. The aim is to demonstrate their acquisition of content elements and methodological approaches meeting the course outcomes.   Research Paper (20% of the grade): Written paper (270 words) Date of submission: Week 11. Students must submit a paper in which they will critically analyze a theme or issue of sufficient complexity, linking media issues to political, social, technological and strategic developments and transformations in the Arab region and transnationally. Students should use the material from their required reading as well as the extended list of additional reading mentioned in the syllabus. The paper should be about 2750 words long and properly formatted.  

The course is based on mini-lectures and selected readings. Students should prepare at home in accordance with the following agenda:


Topic(s) to be covered Preparation/Reading/Work Due General Tasks
Week 1 Session 1:  Overview of the Print and Broadcast Media in the Middle East and North-Africa   Session 2:  Pre-satellite Era Media Issues in the Arab World: Media Ownership, Control, Pan-arabism, Censorship, Diversity, Access, etc    * El Mustapha Lahlali, Contemporary Arab Broadcast Media. Edinburgh University Press, 2011; pp. 9-50   * Said Essoulami, “The Press in the Arab World: 100 Years of Suppressed Freedom” 7 January 2006. <>.   Start reading next session’s assignments
Week 2 Session 1:  Focus on a Country Case:  The Broadcast and Print Media Scene in Morocco (Typology of the Print and Broadcast Media, Ownership, Regulation, Social Media, etc)    Session 2: Power and politics, Freedom of Expression, Pluralism, Access, and Institutional, Professional and Ethical Challenges in Moroccan Media Today   * Aziz Douai, “In Democracy’s Shadow: The ‘New’ Independent Press and the Limits of Media Reform in Morocco,” Institute of Technology University of Ontario, Oshawa, Canada    * Mapping Digital Media: MoroccoA Report by the Open Society Foundation, by Bouziane Zaid (lead reporter) and Mohamed Ibahrine (reporter) 2011; pp. 64-77 Class presentations will be assigned
Week 3 Session 1:  The Rise of Satellite Television Broadcast in the Middle East and North Africa   Session 2: Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel: The Network that Rattled the Middle East and Became a Media Trend Setter   * Naomi Sakr, “Maverick or Model? Al-Jazeera’s Impact on Arab Satellite Television,” pp. 66-95; in Transnational Television Worldwide: Towards a New Media Order. Edited by Jean K. Chalaby. I.B.Tauris, 2005    * Mohamed Zayani, The Al Jazeera Phenomenon Critical Perspectives on New Arab Media. Pluto Press, 2005. In particular pp. 1-46   1st Summary Due
Week 4 Session 1:  The Al Jazeera Effect, and Al Jazeera as Counter-Flow Media Content   Session 2:  Al-Jazeera’s Coverage of the Second Gulf War and the U.S’s “War on Terror” Doctrine Focus Area:  A discussion of the Documentary, Control Room, (Noujaim, 2004) Main issues to be discussed are: Al Jazeera vs. Western Media Coverage of the Gulf War, Bias, Arab and Western Audience Sensibilities, and Media Control by the Military. * Andreas Musolff and Abdel-mutaleb al-Zuweiri, “The Milestone Metaphor: CNN and al-Jazeera Discourse on the Iraq War,” pp. 31-46; in The New Arab Media: Technology, Image and Perception. Ed. Mahjoub Zweiri and Emma C. Murphy    * Joshua Rushing, Mission Al Jazeera: Build a Bridge, Seek the Truth, Change the World. Palgrave McMillan, 2007; Chapters 2, 3, & 7 Outside-class viewing of the documentary, Control Room, (Noujaim, 2004)
Week 5 Session 1 & 2:  Different Media, Same Reality: An in-depth look at three Television Channels, American Funded Al Hurra, Saudi-Owned Al Arabiya, and Hezbullah’s Al Manar * Mamoun Fandy, (Un)Civil war of words : Media and Politics in the Arab World. London, Praeger 2007; pp. 1-18; 73-79, and 115-108   * El Mustapha Lahlali, Contemporary Arab Broadcast Media. Edinburgh University Press, 2011; pp.  79-117  
Week 6 Session 1:  Entertainment, Culture and Political Contestation:   Focus 1: Arab Music Channels and Arab Youth Sub-Culture   Session 1:  Mid-Term Exam * Imad Karam, “Satellite Television: A Breathing Space for Arab Youth?” in Political Renewal: Community, Legitimacy and Public Life, Naomi Sakr, ed.; pp. 80-95    * Christian Pond, “The Appeal of Sami Yusuf and the Search for Islamic Authenticity,” in TBS 16, 2006  
Week 8 Session 1:  Focus 2: Arab Media and Gender: Empowerment or Exploitation of Arab Women?   Session 2: Focus 3: Arab Reality TV: Consumerism, Inter-Arab Rivalry, and Transnational Identity * Fatema Mernissi , “The Satellite, the Prince, and Scheherazade : The Rise of Women as Communicators in Digital Islam,” TBS 12, Spring- Summer 2004   * Marwan M. Kraidy, “The “New Middle East”? Reality Television and the “Independence Intifada”, pp. 166-191; from Reality Television and Arab Politics Contention in Public life, Cambridge University Press, 2010.    * Marwan M. Kraidy, “Idioms of Contention: Star Academy in Lebanon and Kuwait,” in Political Renewal: Community, Legitimacy and Public Life, Naomi Sakr, ed.; p. 44-55  
Week 9 Session 1:  Arab Media and the Challenges of Moderate/Radical Islam and the Sunni/Shia Divide  Focus: Arab Religious Channels: Enlightening the Citizenry and the Political and Idealogical Influence Game in the Arab and Muslim World   Session 2: Field Study of a Media Organization * Mohamed El-Sayed, “Religious Islamic Satellite Channels:  A Screen That Leads You To Heaven,” Reuters Institute Fellowship Paper, University of Oxford, 2009    * Yasmin Moll, “Islamic Televangelism: Religion, Media and Visuality in Contemporary Egypt,” Arab Media & Society, Issue 10 Spring 2010  2nd Summary Due
Week 10 Session 1:  Arab and Western Media Coverage of Geopolitical and Cultural Conflicts Case 1: Coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Arab and Western Media   Session 2:  Case 2: The Coverage of The Danish Cartoons and Charlie Hebdo Controversies by Arab and Western Media * Laura Aguiar, “Framing a Global Crisis: An Analysis of the Coverage of the Latest Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Al-Jazeera and CNN” University of Stockholm.   * Bent NØRBY Bonde, “How 12 Cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed were Brought to Trigger an International Conflict,” Nordicom Review 28 (2007) 1, pp. 33-48   Field Study Report Due
Week 11 Session 1:  The Role of Traditional, New, and Social Media in the Unfolding of the Arab Spring Events   Session 2: Field Study of a Media Organization (Venue and Date TBD.) * Hal Marcovitz, The Arab Spring Uprisings. ReferencePoint Press, 20014; pp. 14-52     * Ibrahim N. Abusharif , Parsing “Arab Spring” Northwestern University in Qatar, February 2014; pp. 25-31 Research Paper Due
Week 12 Session 1:  Arab Media and Democracy   Session 2:  Present Trends and the Future of Arab Media * Philip Seib, “New Media and Prospects for Democratization,” pp. 1-48; in Seib, Philip. Ed. New Media and the New Middle East. Palgrave McMillan, 2007 Field Study Report Due


Required readings: 
In addition to the articles and book excerpts indicated in the course content section, the following books are essential readings:
  • Seib, Philip. Ed. New Media and the New Middle East. Palgrave McMillan, 2007.
  • Zweiri, M and Murphy, Emma C. Eds. The New Arab Media: Technology, Image and Perception. Ithaca Press, 2011.
  • Fandy, Mamoun. (Un)Civil war of words: Media and Politics in the Arab World. London, Praeger 2007
  • Lahlali, El Mustapha. Contemporary Arab Broadcast Media. Edinburgh University Press, 2011.
  • Sakr, Naomi. Arab Television Today. I. B. Taurus, 2007.
  • Mohamed Zayani. The Al Jazeera Phenomenon Critical Perspectives on New Arab Media. Pluto Press, 2005