Re-enchantment of Arab Television

Just a reminder of this conference organized by Ehab Galal, my colleague at Copenhagen University, Denmark. Deadline is on 30 October so hurry up!

CfP:Re-enchantment of Arab Television

Copenhagen University, Denmark

The New Islamic Public Sphere Programme RE-ENCHANTMENT OF ARAB TELEVISION:

Call for conference paper and subsequent book proposals

The New Islamic Public Sphere Programme invites proposals for papers at the Conference on
Re-enchantment of Arab Television: Audience responses and identity constructions
to be held in
Copenhagen, 27 ­ 29 May 2011

The main issue of this conference is how Arab audiences respond to religion and
religious programming on Arab television. A focus on Islamic programming is particularly
requested, but also papers on audience responses to other religious programming are
encouraged. In spite of the common recognition that the effect of media has to be
understood in the encounter between media discourse and audience responses, very often
the Arab television audiences seem to be perceived as a passive, impressionable and
homogenous mass. This raises the need for further and critical reception and audience
analyses taking the heterogeneity and transnationality of the Arab audiences into
account. Thus, the main objective of the conference, and subsequent book proposal, is to
gain new knowledge about the Arab audiences and how they make use of TV in their
construction, negotiation and rejection of religious identities and practices.

The conference objective is to present and discuss qualitative and comparative studies
of Arab television audiences. This approach raises questions related to media and
(religious) identity formation as well as a number of methodological questions of
general interest for media and cultural studies. Concepts like meaning making and
individual identity construction are introduced as key notions in general but three
interrelated analytical approaches are suggested for further exploration. Firstly,
audience identification with religious identity as collective memory constructed through
storytelling. Secondly, audience use of religious programming as an instrument to live
and identify transnationally. And, thirdly, audience interpretation of religious
programming as basis for resistance towards political hegemonies.
These topics will be investigated at three seminar sessions wherein the following
questions might be examined:

•       How does tthe audience integrate the mediatised form of religious storytelling
in its own identity discourse and how does the audience construct collective identity
through media use?
o       Arab/Muslim audience as an analytical and theoretical concept with a focus on
theoretical discussions hereof.
o       Media theory on Arab/Muslim audience responses with a focus on methodological
and analytical questions.
o       Case studies on audience responses using cases related to television.

•       How is the transnationality of the Arrab television practiced and consumed by
the audience and what does this add to the transnational perspective as a theoretical
perspective on religious and cultural identity?
o       The Arab/Muslim Diaspora and its TV media practices.
o       The construction of transnational communities as spatial and/or virtual

•       How do Arabs/Musslims in different societal contexts make use of religious
narratives offered by the Arab television to negotiate, reject, and contest cultural and
political ideas, values and identities?
o       Arab/Muslim audience as a political public using religious television as source
for opposition and resistance.

Submission of proposals:
Abstracts (300 ­ 500 words) should be sent by 30th October 2010 too Ehab Galal at
(ehab AT

Abstract, following this order: author(s), affiliation, email address, title of
abstract, body of abstract, short CV (max. 150 words).

A full draft paper of 8000 words should be submitted no later than 1st May 2011.

Selection of the papers will be made on the basis of quality and relevance to the
conference themes. Only accepted papers will get an answer by the date mentioned below.
Selected papers will be published in a special volume in English.

o       Submission of abstracts: 30th October 2010
o       Notification of acceptance of abstracts: 1st December 2010
o       Submission of full papers: 1st May 2011

Financial and other support:
All participants will be provided basic accommodation free of cost for a maximum of
three nights for participants within Europe; for participants outside Europe individual
arrangement will be made.

For additional information:
Organizer Ehab Galal
Assistant Professor in Modern Islam and Middle Eastern Studies
Department for Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies
University of Copenhagen
Snorresgade 17-19
DK-2300 Copenhagen S
E-mail: ehab AT

The conference will take place under the auspices of The New Islamic Public Sphere
Programme at the University of Copenhagen. For further information, see:

The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie, Intimacy and Design

Tonight I attended a very cool presentation at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Lund. Manu Halasa is a London based journalist and editor covering the Middle East and exploring its visual pop culture.

She has co-edited this amazing book with Lebanese designer Rana Salam called “The secret life of Syrian lingerie. Intimacy and design” which I`ve jumped into by chance at Beirut airport and immediately bought. I was totally fascinated by it, by its catchy arty pictures and by the stories it was telling abut, revolving around Syrian men who make kinky lingerie for their potential spouses, sisters, cousins, daughters. According to Manu, who has brought us to a visual journey into Damascene Suq al Hamidiya, there are more than 200 little tiny factories that manufacture these fast changing lingerie models, from feathers to ringing mobiles to actual candies “embedded” into the panties. Stuff like this, pretty unique in its genre, at least for Western tastes standars!

There are also models who advertise this kinky stuff: the pictures and the all settings are kind of “vintage”, not to say “kitsch”, but never vulgar. They convey this idea of irony and playfulness -which I`m not that sure it`s linked to sex in the country, but Manu seems to be quite persuaded about this-. Btw, the featured models are all Eastern Europeans -and many of them working in Damascene “cabaret”- , not sure a Syrian could ever do this kind of job, despite in a sort of “ironic” atmosphere.

Photo by Omar al-Moutem

<<The Arab street – its vibrancy, innovativeness, traditions of design and contemporary expression – has been obscured by geopolitical issues. Any attempt to deviate from the established line that the region is a place of war, religious fundamentalism or terrorism becomes virtually impossible particularly within the context of mainstream Western commercial publishing>> says Malu who urged foreigners to go to Syria, meet people, talk to them, discover their stories because <<talking to people is the best antidote to war>>.

I wonder what would be the reaction of people in general and women in particular if she did an art exhibition featuring this stuff in Damascus so moving this lingerie from the context they are used to a completely new one. Anyway, it made me feel kind of “homesick” and almost felt the crazy atmosphere of Old Damascus “invading” the room with its colours and lights and energy.


Syrian musalsalat in Sweden

I`m in Lund, Sweden, attending a very interesting conference on Syria and will be giving a talk this morning under the title of “An overview on Syrian drama production context: private producers, Gulf funding and the State as multiple powers re-shaping contemporary Syrian musalsalat”.

The panel will feature Christa Salamandra, the US anthropologist who first studied Syrian drama; Cecile Boex who`s working on audiovisuals and contentious politics at IFPO in Damascus; and Shayna Silverstein from the  University of Chicago on secularism and the aesthetics of debke performance. The conference is a three day event featuring also art exhibitions and oud performance, being a window on the many facets of Syrian contemporary culture. Thanks to the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University for organizing this!