Communication and Culture | Performance, Culture, and Power in the Middle East and North Africa
C422 | 11114 | Dr. Jane Goodman
Class Meeting Time: Monday through Thursday, 1:10-2:25
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
relationships between cultural values, power relations, 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 events and practices through which
cultural values are negotiated and social relations are organized.
In other words, Moroccan marketplace talk, Bedouin women’s love
poetry, or the listening practices of young male consumers of
Algerian rai (world beat) music will be as important 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 also 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. Classroom
discussions will be critical to being able to understand and
contrast these varied perspectives.
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 format features structured discussions, minilectures,
small group work, and numerous video and audio presentations.
Core texts include:
Abu-Lughod, Lila. 1986. Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a
Bedouin Society. Univ. Calif. Press.
Memmi, Albert. 1992 (1955). The Pillar of Salt. Beacon Press.
Schade-Poulsen, Marc. 1999. Men and Popular Music in Algeria: The
Social Significance of Rai. Texas Univ. Press.
Other readings will be available on electronic reserves.