Mass Mediations: New Approaches to Pop Culture in the Middle East and Beyond

Armbrust, W., ed. (2000). Mass Mediations: New Approaches to Popular Culture in the Middle East and Beyond.

This anthology addresses scale: modernity, nationalism, and globalization. Analysis works to counteract the global as scale- or reducing the analysis of modernity to a tension between global and local cultural forms. It’s to avoid the global comparison as default scale of analysis. “Together the chapters herein suggest that modernity need not be associated definitively with either nationalism or globalization”.

6- The chapters in this volume help to qualify and focus debates overs scales of social interaction and their significance to our analyses. On the whole they suggest that global/local tensions are the crucial frame of analysis if one decides to make them so. but the decision to make them so is as embedded in institutional and power relations as any other discourse…We therefore hope to capture something of the complex transitions between scales of social interaction without, however, taking globalization rhetoric as a universalizing master narrative.

12- Cultural practice not done in consciousness of globalization becomes an affirmation of the local in response to the pressure of the global

14- By casting the indigenous as always and only outside o underneath the mainstream literary discourses of modern Africa, it turns a blind eye to what is in fact the actual mainstream, the cultural discourses of the majority, in most of Africa (Barber 1995,11)

17- some chapters suggest resistance to the dominant themes of globalization, which either advocate the demise of the nation-state or predict its occurrence. Congruence of commercial, political, and academic thinking about the relationship of globalization to both nationalism and modernity.

19- disjuncture creates spaces for new social forms to flourish

20- caution about globalization is that privileges the newness of the phenomena of transregional connection.

21- the link between globalization and electronic media is overhyped; world systems precede digital communication

22- the novelty of globalization is predicated on the ability of media to maintain a sense of connection is predicated on the ability of media to maintain a sense of connection among places, people, and things in motion. Closer inspection of migratory phenomena often reveals a more complex process of forgetting, or creating cultural memories that may have little use for modern cosmopolitan perspective of globalization

24- Globalist rhetoric of the present overemphasizes the attraction of Arabic-language material for Arab immigrants to the US, just as postcolonial theorists axiomatically disparage the ability of nonmetropolitan vernacular culture to flourish despite-or alongside- metropolitan culture. The result in both cases is to make the foreign segment of each market stand for a much more complex whole.

26- pop culture; what it does is to create new scales of communication and new dimensions of modern identity.

Pop culture focuses on the local production and reception of transnational forms of culture; public culture includes the analysis of flows of people, objects, and cultural practices, which are taken to constitute a pluralized modernity no longer seen as something created in europe and disseminated to the rest of the world.

Public culture and its attendant concern with transnationalism and cultural flows have become a hegemonic insight; “The global produces the local”; Homogenizing tendencies of global culture and the fragmentation of localism.

Chapter 2: Public Culture in Arab Detroit- relatively mobile transnational communities still must contend with a powerful imperative to reterritorialize- to become rooted in a place and in national institutions.

Chapter 3: The 6/8 Beat Goes On- Iranian music in Iranian communities in Los Angeles
Iranians in LA are an exile community having a higher degree of autonomy; entire genres of Iranian popular music moved to the Iranian American market. Whether Iranian-Americans can preserve cultural difference is up to their being affluent and having more immigrants come; cohesive community outside of national institutions.

Chapter 4: Sa’ida Sultan/Danna International- transnational media flow that is nonhierarchical (horizontal from Israel to Egypt); Danna Intl is marketed to subculture of Israeli gay and disaffected Mizrahim who chafe at Isrlae’s European -dominated social hierarchy. Swedenburg uses national categories to talk about transnational phenomena.

Chapter 5: Playing it both ways- Upper Egyptian music was recorded entirely for the benefit of foreigners; the effectiveness of the music is predicated on the audience’s inability to understand either it or its place in the “authentic” Egyptian cutlure they imagine it represents.

Chapter 6: Joujouka/jajouka/zahjoukah- worldbeat marketing of s Moroccan ensemble; Jajouka are quite marginal; ambiguity over ownership of music. The ambiguity arises from disputes between the Jajouka musicians’ principal Moroccan patron and the various Westerners over how to market the music and ho gets the profits from their albums. “World music” makes the most sense in terms of metropolitan tastes for exoticism. Musicians are whatever metropolitan audiences want to read them into them

Chapter 7: Nasser 56/Cairo 96: nostalgia for the nationalist project, emphasizing the Suez Crisis. Wide spectrum of public culture within which nationalist imagery can form an effective bulwark against metropolitan globalization.

Chapter 8: Consuming Damascus- attempts to construct the “local” as a national community that is to some extent outside the reach of global capital. Mere consumption takes the place of university education (modern instrument) as a means for constructing national identity. Consumption practices include leisure practices that revolve around public display in restaurants and hotels, as well as representations of “Old Damascus” in literature and television serials.  This compares to Damascene and foreign cultures that are constructed to be cosmopolitan and local at the same time.

Chapter 9: The Hairbrush and the Dagger- Old Damascus is a construct of nostalgia; nostalgia in national narrative. Nuanced mediated debate “about social, political, and historical registers of truth”. Such debates are the ground on which Pakistani modernity is constructed, both in regards to Non-Pakistani and internal divisions of class and regional differences.

Chapter 10: Beloved Istanbul- focus on a transsexual singer; sonic and literary representations of Instanbul, that many take to be emblematic of the entire state (making it similar to Damascus and Lahore) but also addressesing the importance of nostalgia. Author uncouples modernity from nationalism in contemporary Turkey. Classical singing is privileged, but singer distorts her singing. This rendition articultes with the surprising popularity of a postmodern novel; postmodernity in Turkey requires a confrontation with history (present and the Ottoman past) rather than the schizophrenic fragmentation of the self that Westerners sometimes associate with the idea of post-modernity. The compromising of the modernist project in Turkey opens up new developments of Turkish nationalism.

Chapter 11: Badi’a Masabani- shows the complexity of nationalist imagery from the 1930s; the “carnival of national identity” is a series of comic sketches- in prose and in caricatured images- that look at first glance like an eclectic hodgepodge of elements. Images of the politician, the singer, the nightclub impresaria, and the British official are all juxtaposed to one another in a sophisticated mix of linguistic registers. Modernity lies deeper than the digital age.

Chapter 12: American Ambassador in Technicolor- examines the politics and economics of the Egyptian film industry before its nationalization in the 1960s, demonstrating that the economic crisis Egyptian filmmakers found themselves in by the 1950s was not caused entirely, or even predominantly, by the hegemony of American and European cinemas. There is every reason to believe that Egyptian films were more profitable than foreign films at that time. They just couldn’t meet the demand of the local market.

Chapter 13: The golden age before the golden age- cinema was part of a vernacular culture elaborated in countless films, songs, articles, and images, all of which deserve to be taken more seriously. Sources for vernacular culture are many, as are their constantly changing constructions, and yet, vernacular culture becomes naturalized to the point that origins become secondary to its local and often national significance. In a global perspective vernacular culture tends to disappear in favor of a well-regulated exoticism that paradoxically obscures real difference.


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