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Public Lecture: “Beyond Al Jazeera and the ‘Arab Spring’: Media, Politics and the Struggle Over Modernity in the Arab World Today” with Jaafar Aksikas (Columbia College Chicago)

April 10, 2018 | 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Most recent conventional accounts of dominant Arab media, both in the Arab world and in the West (including the United States), tend to focus almost exclusively on Al Jazeera or, in the wake of the “Arab Spring” of 2011 and the following political upheavals across the region, on the new and emergent media forms.  In these accounts, new Arab media are seen as modernizing, democratizing and liberatory.  Aksikas places these media in a broader context, looking especially at consumer and corporate culture.  He considers how new forms of media, especially new TV genres, namely reality TV, appropriate and use specific elements of modernity, including such ideals as citizenship, democracy, freedom, and equality.  This instrumentalization of the ideals of modernity enables corporate culture to present itself to young audiences as their ally and champion, which renders the concept of popular modernity -often used around the various Arab “revolutions” – problematic.  Aksikas considers how commercial media increasingly replaces and displaces state, public and even traditional institutions in the intensity and dedication of its address to young men and women.  Holding on to the specificity of contemporary Arab societies and cultures, he identifies the contradictions of these media developments, articulated both to the energies and strengths of emerging Arab modernities and to the production of global neoliberal Arab subjectivities and rationalities at the same time.

Jaafar Aksikas is a Moroccan-born American academic, whose work focuses on media, culture, law and politics in the Middle East and North Africa.  He is currently Associate Professor of Humanities and Cultural Studies at Columbia College Chicago. His books and edited volumes include Cultural Studies and the ‘Juridical Turn’: Culture, Law, and Legitimacy in the Era of Neoliberal Capitalism (2016), Arab Modernities: Islamism, Nationalism and Liberalism in the Post-Colonial Arab World (2009) and The Sirah [Epic] of Antar: An Islamic Interpretation of Arab and Islamic History (2002).  He also frequently serves as consultant and expert witness on Middle Eastern and North African societies, cultures and politics.

Discussion and catered reception to follow. Sponsored by the UNC Department of Communication and the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations. For more information, please contact:

University Room, Hyde Hall
UNC Chapel Hill


April 10, 2018
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
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