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Chair: Fatima El Issawi (London School of Economics and Political Science)
· Rabie Barakat (University of Edinburgh)
Satellite media in the Arab world: A tool for redesigning geopolitical realities
Satellite media in the Arab World has become a vital catalyst of social dynamics. It has proven to be able to void authoritarian regimes from their supporting dogma and to redefine the grounds of legitimacy on the Arab stage. The process of public sphere reconstruction reached its peak during the Arab Spring, and the soft power introduced by media rhetoric soon materialized in intrastate war triggered by the mobilization of the masses through media outlets. These delegitimizing processes empowered a democratic trend within Islamist circles who represent the main sociopolitical alternative capable of filling the vacuum left by regime collapse.
· Valentina Saini (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
Egyptian media, especially the press, suffered from strict control by the government during the three decade-long Mubarak’s regime. This resulted in the exclusion or mis-representation of opposition groups, particularly the Islamist opposition. Before the former Egyptian president Mubarak was ousted, the Muslim Brotherhood was virtually non-existent in the daily edition of the state-owned newspaper Al Ahram, for example. Has this changed after the fall of Hosni Mubarak? The so-called Arab Spring reached Morocco too, though to a different extent, and the Islamist Justice and Development Party won the legislative elections in November 2011. Despite the differences existing between the Arab Spring experiences in Egypt and Morocco, it has resulted in the clear prevalence of Islamist forces in both countries’ parliaments. Has the media treatment of Islamist parties changed after the Arab Spring and especially after these political results? Is it a biased treatment? How is the press of these two countries acting in this period of transition and change? To answer these questions we would like to analyse the treatment of Islamist forces in two Egyptian and two Moroccan newspapers in 2011, comparing it with a sample of 2009 news coverage of the same newspapers.
· Sonja Buchberger (SOAS)
“Open to the world”: cosmopolitanism and CouchSurfing in Tunisia during turbulent times
Online hospitality networks are organisations whose members offer free overnight stays for other participants at their homes. In the last decade, they have induced the fastest growing new form of tourism practice worldwide and have found an overarching moral claim in the promotion of cosmopolitan values and peace through free and universal hospitality.
My research in Tunis focussed on one network, CouchSurfing, which has contributed in widening the range of people with whom Tunisian members can connect. Today, hundreds of Tunisians aspire to seek friends elsewhere and use CouchSurfing to contact international tourists travelling to the country. Despite their limited access to international visas, they can still live out their cosmopolitan aspirations. Involving a perceived ethnic and cultural Other, the primary characteristic of their friendships with Western participants is that they stand outside of common forms of socialising among people in their usual surroundings. Despite a strong commitment to place and the self-perception as 'ambassadors' of Tunisia or Islam, members insist on the personal choice of identity. This paper explores how participants’ aspirations and outlooks fit into the wider political changes in Tunisia in the wake of the Tunisian Revolution.
· Hamdi Echkaou (Mohamed V University)
In all its paradoxical constituencies, the February 20th Movement discourse indicates the existence of political powers which aim at introducing new mobilizing patterns in Morocco. For this reason, the movement has become the focus of state-controlled strategies. For example, the dynamism that has impacted on a passive Moroccan society has lasted for more than a year and has now fostered a new constitution. The state has, however, not withdrawn from tactics of fear and intimidation among its members. It has adopted an attitude of debasement and simplification towards protests, considering them a ‘child’s affair’. The state has also tried to electronically hack the movement and used mass media in a biased way.
Since this movement has gained wide attention and credibility, it has given birth to a social demand to understand its innovative communicative mechanisms, and how they reach its audience. This dissertation attempts to offer a bridge between academic research and this new social demand.
It also has as an objective the mapping and analysis of the new media in relation to their role in the changing of the social norms, politics, and identity as well as revealing the impact of the new communication technologies in generating socio-political changes in Moroccan society.
· Saussan Khalil (University of Leeds )
The role of the internet in the popular protests of 2011 cannot be overestimated. Most importantly, the internet allowed online activists to escape censorship and communicate to thousands if not millions of people in real time. What is interesting about this form of communication is the language of choice, particularly in Egypt – for centuries Classical (CA) or Modern Standard (MSA) Arabic have been the accepted forms of writing; however, the form of language being used online leans more towards colloquial Arabic, which has up until now only been accepted as a spoken form.
The relationship between the written and spoken forms of Arabic in Egypt has been detailed by Haeri (2003), but the use of spoken Arabic in online writing is yet to be explored.
This paper looks at the relationship between the form of the language used in online writing and the messages being conveyed. The suggestion is that away from the censorship of state media and the press, writers are free to use dialectal forms of the language for a freer, more direct approach to their readers, which has been more effective in communicating their message than the use of CA or MSA would have been.