Media and the Arab Uprising Panel


By Nick Puzzanghera, Staff Writer

On Wednesday, the department of Middle East and Islamic Studies and the department of Film and Video Studies sponsored a panel titled “Media and the Afterlife of the Arab Uprisings” in Research Hall.

Moderated by George Mason’s own director of Middle East Studies, Bassam Haddad, three panelists and a respondent aimed to propose new ways of thinking about the role of media before, during, and especially after the Arab Spring uprisings.

The panelists—Marwan Kraidy and Rayya El Zein from the University of Pennsylvania, and Hatim El-Hibri from George Mason University—proposed and discussed a wide variety of ideas about art, resistance, and social media and their relationship to how we perceive the Middle East and the politics of resistance.

Amal Amireh acted as the respondent, providing counterpoints to the panelists’ ideas.

Kraidy, giving his input to the panel over Skype, proposed that journalistic attitudes toward the role of media in revolution and resistance is oriented around policy issues and goals, and that these are short-term.

For example, social media can simultaneously be lauded as a platform for activists and artists of resistance as well as a treacherous tool for extremist recruitment. Kraidy states the importance of thinking about what is portrayed on the screen.

At length, El Zein discusses her concept of neoliberal orientalism with the audience and her fellow panelists. She finds the painting range of emerging politics as resistance problematic.

“What is being resisted?” she questions. “And how?”

The history of radical ideas on how to deal with power, she says, is often left out of the media’s portrayal of the Arab Uprisings.

Instead, sensational imagery that portrays a specific demographic as the epitome of global resistance is circulated in art and on social media. She argues that instead of treating specific voices as more authentic in the context of resistance of power, we would do better to rethink sensational images of resistance.

The panel offered a compelling discussion about the understanding of the politics of the Arab Uprisings as well as the politics of global art and media as both a tool and an influence.     

Photo Courtesy of Allie Thompson