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Transnational TV and National Identity in the Middle East

February 5, 2011

At the The Monkey Cage John Sides discusses an interesting new paper by Nisbet and Myers on the effects on national identification for viewers of pan-regional TV in the Middle East (there’s a link to an ungated copy there).  Essentially the more you watch Al Jazeera or similar the more you are likely to  have a stronger sense of pan regional identity and a weaker identification with your home state.

I would add some historical perspective to this.  Transnational media have a long history in the Middle East.  Radio broadcasting goes back at least to the Second World War and radio was a key tool in the inter Arab struggles of the 1950s and 1960s (eg Lynch 1999).  The circulation of newspapers also has a long history.

There is a similarly long history of ‘regionalist’ politics in the Middle East eg in formation of the United Arab Republic  the union of Egypt and Syria in 1958 or in the creation of the Ba’ath Party in 1947 (eg Barnett 1998).  Thus the connection between education, regionalist identification and attention to transnational media is not new.  While I suspect the rise of transnational TV in the region has had an impact the significance of that impact needs to be assessed in a longer time frame that recognizes the political and media continuities in the region.

Nisbet, E., and T. Myers (2010) ‘Challenging the State: Transnational TV and Political Identity in the Middle East’, Political Communication, 27: 347-366.

Barnett, M.N. (1998) Dialogues in Arab Politics: Negotiations in Regional Order. New York: Columbia University Press.

Lynch, M. (1999) State Interests and Public Spheres: The International Politics of Jordan’s Identity. New York: Columbia University Press.

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One comment

  1. […] or in the creation of the Ba’ath Party in 1947 (eg Barnett 1998). … Excerpt from: Transnational TV and National Identity in the Middle East « Public … Share and […]



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