Communication and Culture | Communicative Practice in the Middle East and North Africa
C645 | 1102 | Jane Goodman


This is an especially important moment in global history to develop a
more nuanced understanding of Middle Eastern societies than most
Western media provide. In this course, we will explore the complex
articulations between cultural systems of meaning, social
organizations of power, and communicative practices among various
populations of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).  Taking an
ethnographic perspective, we view performance not only in terms of a
formal display for an audience but also as the range of communicative
events and practices through which cultural values are negotiated and
social relations are organized.  In other words, Moroccan marketplace
talk, Yemeni political poetry, or the listening practices of young
male consumers of sermons on tape will be as germane to our inquiry as
the staged concerts of a national Egyptian star.

As we ask what it is that people are up to when they engage in
communicative practices, we will problematize what communicative
practice entails and how it has been variously theorized. In moving
from what scholars of performance have called the interaction order
(face-to-face communication) to global media, we will necessarily be
engaging with a range of theoretical paradigms, drawn from fields
including anthropology, performance studies, and cultural studies.

The focus of the course is on how communicative practice is organized
in the societies of the MENA rather than on how these societies are
represented by Western media. At the same time, we acknowledge that
the authors (mostly Western) whose works we will be reading have their
own positionality with regards to the locations of their research, and
we will also attend to their representational practices and politics.

The course will be structured as a seminar. Readings may include
(among others):

Ahmed, Akbar S. and Hastings Donna. 1994. Islam, Globalization, and
Postmodernity. Routledge.
Armbrust, Walter. 1996. Mass Culture and Modernism in Egypt.
Cambridge.
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge.
Caton, Steven. 1991. Peaks of Yemen I Summon: Poetry as Cultural
Practice in a North Yemeni Tribe. California.
Eickelman, Dale and Jon W. Anderson, eds. 1999. New Media in the
Muslim World : The Emerging Public Sphere. Indiana.
Kapchan, Deborah. 1995. Gender on the Market. Pennsylvania.
Messick, Brinkely.1993. The Calligraphic State: Textual Domination and
History in a Muslim Society [Yemen]. California.
Mitchell, Timothy. 1991. Colonising Egypt. California.