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Television Matters
Television serials and their production worlds offer a unique vantage point from which to study social and political life in the Middle East. Dramas also merit consideration for their aesthetic qualities and formal innovations. Yet social media has overshadowed professionally-produced fictional TV in the study of Middle Eastern popular culture over the past two decades. The 2011 anti-regime uprisings and their aftermaths have shifted scholarly interest to social networking services like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. User-generated content has displaced television in academic literature, but not in in the Middle East itself, where TV drama forms a key platform for sociopolitical commentary. TV dramas regularly treat a range of topical issues; their creators serve as public intellectuals and opinion shapers. Multi-media convergence has intensified, rather than undermined, serial television’s reach and relevance. For example, the Internet offers a virtual, year-round simulation of Ramadan—the longstanding drama broadcast season in Arabic-language media. Digital technologies breathe new life into long-form television, as audiences watch serials through streaming and video sharing services, and debate them on social media. Fan cultures thrive on networking sites. Professional television creators harness these platforms to promote their works and—sometime from sites of exile—communicate with each other and their publics. Viewers produce and post mashups, spoofs, critiques, and homages to TV serials and their makers. The authoritarian entrenchments that have followed the 2011 uprisings have exacerbated constraints on journalistic and academic freedom, augmenting fictional television’s significance. Drawn from intensive, multi-year and multi-sited fieldwork among Arab TV drama makers, and internet ethnography on audiences, this presentation demonstrates the continued—indeed increasing—value of fictional media for understanding contemporary political and social transformations.
Geographic Area
Arab States
Sub Area