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.


Cultural theory, pop culture, and Gramsci

Storey, J., 2015. Cultural theory and popular culture: An introduction. Routledge.

  • hegemony refers to the way in which dominant groups in society, through a process of ‘intellectual and moral leadership’, seek to win consent of subordinate groups in society (10)
  • pop culture is the site of struggle between resistance and forces of incorporation
  • texts of pop culture move within “compromise equilibrium”- a balance that is mostly weighted in favor of the dominant.
  • This is historical; texts move from popular to mass over time.
  • using hegemony theory, a text is made up of contradictory mixes of forces (11)
  • conflict is contained and channelled into ideologically safe places; hegemony is maintained by making concessions to subordinate classes (84)
  • 85- ideological state appartuses serve as the organic intellectuals who shape and organize reform of social life**

Bennet, Tony. 1986. “Introduction: Popular Culture and the Turn to Gramsci”

  • pop culture is a terrain of negotiation
  • ‘the people’ refers to several social groups that can be united
  • 94- Gramsci allows scholars to escape the structuralism and culturalism dichotomy.
  • 95- bourgeoisie hegemony is secured not via the obliteration of working-class culture but via its articulation to bourgeois culture and ideology so that, in being associated with and expressed in the forms of the latter, its political affiliations are altered in the process.

Hall, Stuart. 1986. “Popular Culture and the State.”

  • reading for positions (subordinate, dominant, negotiated)
  • argues that pop culture is a contested site for political constructions of ‘the people’ and their relation of the ‘power bloc’
  • writes against the historical model of hegemony and instead that historically “we must attend to breaks and discontinuities: the points where a whole set of patterns and relations is drastically reshaped or transformed. We must try to identify the periods of ‘relative’ settlement” (23)
  • look for the moments of transition
  • 25- shifts in cultural practice and ideology reflect deep changes in class relations
  • Hall uses a variety of case studies from British cultural history to prove his point about the breaks in settlement and moments of incorporation.
  • Breaking points and shifts of the institutionalized cultural institutions reconfigure and establish a new relation of forces, cultural leadership, and class-cultural authority (47).

Fiske, J., 2010. Understanding popular culture. Routledge.

  • the semiotic use of hegemony; pop culture is what people make from the products of the culture industries, that is pop culture is actually what people make from it, do with the commodities and commodified practices they consume.
  • Culture making is the constant process of producing meanings of and from out social experiences. Culture is a constant succession of social practices.
  • pop culture is made in relationship to structures of dominance.
  • Resistance and evasion
  • pop culture is always in process; meanings can only be made in social relations and in intertextual relations (3)
  • relevance is the intersection between the textual and the social. relevances are as divergent as the social situations of the people (6) (news broadcasts: contradictions between socially responsible in content and popular in presentation.
  • Hall’s power bloc: the unified, stable social forces (homogeneity), and the people: a diverse and dispersed set of social allegiances (heterogeneity) (8)
  • dominant power is economic but underpinned and exceeded by semiotic power (meaning)
  • semiotic resistance constructs oppositional ones that serve the interests of the subordinate; semiotic resistance results from the desire of the subordinate to exert control over the meanings of their lives, a control that is typically denied them in their material social conditions (10)

Antonio Gramsci is my jam.

Gramsci, Antonio. 1988. “Hegemony, Relations of Force, Historical Bloc,” “Intellectuals and Education,” “Philosophy, Common Sense, Language, and Folklore,” and “Popular Culture” In An Antonio Gramsci Reader, ed. David Forgacs, 189–221, 233–234, 420–431. New York: Schocken Books.

“Hegemony, Relations of Force, Historical Bloc,”
192- Structures and superstructures form a historical bloc. That is to say the complex, contradictory, and discordant ensemble of the superstructures is the reflection of the ensemble of the social relations of production.

Historical bloc: the dialectical unity of base and superstructure; of theory and practice, of intellectuals and masses. Superstructures’ ensemble is a reflection of the social relations of production.

philosophy of praxis: both the theory of the contradictions in society and at the same time people’s practical awareness of those contradictions. Philosophy of praxis forms conceptions about the world.  194.

ideology: popular belief (are themselves material forces-215).

The relations of force exists socially, politically, militaristically. “The dominant group is co-ordinated concretely with the general interests of the subordinate groups, an the life of the state is conceived of as a continuous process of formation and superseding of unstable equilibria between the interests of the fundamental group and those of the subordinate groups– equilibria in which the interests of the dominant group prevail, but only up to a certain point” (205-206)

Within the paradigm of relations of force come the terms hegemony and historical bloc.

Gramsci is able to critique Marxism and the individual drive of economic necessity; instead he says people are motivated by desire for and belief in prestige (215).

hegemony: a fundamental social group over a series of subordinate groups; the extent of the support given to constituentist ideologies (216). Sometimes it refers purely to the cultural or ideological influence or as a sphere of pure consent; it is often associated with the dominant ideology. For Gramsci, hegemony is very much tied to the economic activity of the leading group. It can also be characterized by the balance of force and consent. In this way, it is dynamic to the continuous process of formation and superseding of unstable equilibria.

Hegemony serves to maintain the power of the bourgeois and the status quo by equating the interest of the working class with that of the bourgeois.

“Intellectuals and Education,”

Intellectuals: give a social group homogeneity and awareness of its own function. Organic are the intellectuals who emerge from inside the group itself; traditional intellectuals are from the earlier social formations and who may attach to themselves to other fundamental class. In order for the working class to challenge the dominant class, organic intellectuals must arise and overthrow the historical separation between leaders and followers. 306- The intellectuals are the dominant group’s ‘deputies’ exercising the subaltern functions of social hegemony and political government.

Spontaneous consent is given by the great masses and is caused historically by the prestige which the dominant group enjoys (307). As well as the state coerive power which legally enforces discipline on those groups who do not consent either actively or passively.

“Philosophy, Common Sense, Language, and Folklore,”

common sense: ideas about the world that we absorb from outside ourselves and never critique.

contradictory consciousness: it contains elements of truth as well as elements of misrepresentation; these contradictions open up space for leverage in a struggle for political hegemony. Made up of two parts: (333) one which is implicit in his activity and which in reality unites him with all his fellow-workers in the practical transformation of the real world; and one, superficially explicit or verbal, which he has inherited from the past and uncritically absorbed.

347- language: also means culture and philosophy (if only at the level of common sense) and therefore the fact of ‘language’ is in reality a multiplicity of facts more or less organically coherent and co-ordinated.


“Popular Culture”

To Gramsci, dominant and subaltern cultural forms act upon each other historically. He sees pop culture and folklore as containing the sediments or residues of earlier dominant cultural forms which have remained from the past and have entered into combination with other forms.

Spoken communication is a means of ideological diffusion which has a rapidity, a field of action, and an emotional simultaneity far greater than written communication-376

Amanda Weidman- Media in South India

Weidman, A. (2010). Sound and the City: Mimicry and Media in South India. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 20: 294–313.

295- Claims to the transparency, neutrality, or immediacy of a medium are always related to particular groups’ desire for or consolidation of power, often through the production of stereotypes about other groups…The frequent plays on linguistic difference and misunderstanding in these recorded vikatams reflect the centrality of language to notions of ethnic and racial identity, as well as cultural and class distinction.

Technological media play an active role in shaping which voices are heard and how. Continuing the process of objectification, recordings intro- duce the possibility of both repeatability and intimacy, a dwelling on the sounds and qualities of the voices through repeated listening in the context of one’s own home.

309- although the gramophone in India was on its surface divorced from politics in the direct sense, it nevertheless served the sociopolitical project of furthering class distinctions, particularly through distinctions in spoken language. Throughout this article, I have been concerned with what Brian Larkin describes as the “double function” of technology: not only its technical function and but its “ideological mode of address,” through which it recruits people as specific sorts of subjects (2008:43). The gramophone’s technical function of reproducing sound was paired in this case with the social function of hailing listeners as middle class subjects. Central to the development of the ideological mode of address that Larkin discusses are media ideologies, ideas about how particular media work and what they are good for. The definition of the gramophone as an entertainment medium determined how the voices reproduced by it would be heard: as nonstandard and non-middle class.

Gonen Dori-Hacohen- Social groups in Hebrew

Dori-Hacohn, G. (2014). Establishing social groups in Hebrew: “We” in political radio phone-in programs. In T.S. Pavlidou ed. Constructing Collectivity: “We” across languages and contexts. 187-206.

188- When people talk, the pronoun ‘we’ is used as a grammatical subject to refer to or create a social group. Participants seldom stop interactions in order to clarify the referents of pronouns.

190- The hosts, professional media personals and the callers use the first person plural in the data; a qualitative analysis of the use of anaxnu ‘we’ found 7 different categories. e categories identified vary in: the amount of participants in a group; their inclusivity or exclusivity; the context in which they operate; and in their referential or creative aspects.

Israeli society: 195- The first use refers to the Israeli society as opposed to some others. the second refers to the entire society without directly referring to any other group. Therefore I termed the rst type opposing general ‘we’ and the second open general ‘we.’…Both uses of the general ‘we’ refer to the society that exists outside the interactions, therefore they are presupposing indices, though they also help in creating the Israeli public sphere.

198- The participants use a vocal ‘we’ to present a voice of a group that does not participate in the interaction. is group is a delimited social group, yet neither hosts nor callers are part of it; the participant performs as if he or she is part of a group from outside the interaction. erefore, the participant rst establishes a group and then acts as its ven- triloquist in a constructed dialogue

202- Bedouin caller user we as the collective to contest identities

The host uses ‘we’ as a discursive tool to manage the interaction. The participants use anaxnu to participate in, and create, a public environment by creating a collective; they create a pub- lic sphere by indexing the entire Israeli society and discussing its social problems.


Laura Kunreuther- Transparent Media

Kunreuther, L. (2010). Transparent Media: Radio, Voice, and Ideologies of Directness in Post democratic Nepal. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 20: 334–351.

334- In this article, I suggest that the ideology of directness is associated with a linguistic ideology that centers on the idea and powers of the voice.

In the first portion of the article, I show the voice to be both a figure and the medium of language. The voice is an index of presence and emotional connection, as well as a medium perceived to be more direct and closely tied to  democratic agency and modernity (Bauman and Briggs 2003; Weidman this volume). In the second portion of the article, I discuss the voice in terms of its material and formal linguistic qualities. The liveness of the FM broadcasts and the frequent use of the phatic function of language in FM programs are what constitute the “direct voice” of many FM programs. I compare the poetics of a direct voice with the features of other common public critiques of the state that make ample use of irony, parody, or pronounced silence to produce their messages. In the final section of the article, I look closely at actual examples of voiced expression in the program SSMK and explore how this direct voice connects more specifically to the ideals of neoliberal personhood and a changing linguistic ideology that underlies development projects like UNICEF.

335- Ideas about direct speech challenge other prevailing Nepali linguistic ideologies, particularly about how to speak about morally contentious subjects or how to speak to authorities, which tend to favor indirection with very little reference to oneself.

336- The ideology of directness is clearly tied to several technological and material features of FM broadcasting, and its association with political liberalization and democracy, which use metaphors of openness, directness, and voice as leitmotifs of their projects.

340- A media ideology in which directness, both in terms of speech and in terms of FM transmission, becomes a highly aspired goal is made possible by the quality of live broadcasts, the more distinct and clearer sounds generated by FM airwaves, and the metadiscourse about language and voice.

342- The specifically neoliberal self- as opposed to a modern self—is considered to be an “entrepreneur of themselves”

344- SSMK models the direct speech they seek to promote in their listeners. Speaking directly is figured as a means of effecting social change.

Ilana Gershon- Break Up 2.0

Gershon, I. (2012). Introduction. In The breakup 2.0: Disconnecting over new media. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Language and media are communal activities that have shared and often unspoken expectations (1).

Media ideologies shape the ways people think about and use different media. Media ideologies are a set of beliefs about communicative technologies with which users and designers explain perceived media structure and meaning (3). Ex. emails as formal correspondence.

Media ideologies about one medium are always affected by the media ideologies people have about other media (5). How you think about texting is connected to how you think about phone calls.

Remediation: describes the ways that people interlink media, suggesting that people define every technology in terms of the other communicative technologies available to them (5).

Media ideologies revolve around people’s ideas about how the structure of technology shapes the ways you can use it to communicate.

Idioms of practice: people figure out together how to use different media and often agree on the appropriate social uses of technology by asking advice sharing stories with each other. This includes collective discussions, shared practices, and this becomes clear especially when people break expectations (6).

People have to overcome social and technical problems and due so by collaborating with friends on how to capture/time their message.

Participants of new media are also working out how the medium influences the message (10).