Pop Culture and Social Media in the Arab World

I was interviewed by Terrance Mintner about Pop Culture and Social Media in the Arab World. Here are excerpts of the interview: 

Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, a Beirut-based writer and activist, told The Media Line that young people in the Arab world are using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp and Snapchat at an increasingly faster rate despite government controls and restrictions.

“Several studies conducted in the last decade have shown that pop culture and social media have helped Arab youth express and promote alternative political and social discourses and practices to the ‘official, normative, and institutional’ ones,” she said.

Although social media offers opportunities for creative expression and interaction, Chrabieh explained, there are many young people who must use these mediums while constantly negotiating complex and layered pressures to maintain online identities that meet the expectations of their societies, especially in the Gulf region.

“Fageeh’s work [generating online videos, for example] is one of many initiatives in the Arab world that addresses social and political issues. In fact, there has been an explosion of artistic and cultural productions since the 2000s in the forms of music, poetry, theater, graffiti, movies, etc.,” Dr. Chrabieh noted.

“There are of course cultural icons or ‘figureheads’ but we are witnessing the rise and proliferation of cultural democratization and transnational cultures [global cultures], especially when it comes to street art, videos and digital expression.”

Popular culture in the Arab world should not be viewed as byproduct of the Arab Spring, she explained. Even before the uprisings, it played a significant role in creating social and political transformations in response to what she termed “Ottoman and European colonialization.

“Lastly, it is hard to characterize Arab pop culture as one category given the diverse political institutions, regional history and the many different discourses about identity. Nevertheless, popular culture can help make sense of this complexity.”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

Learning through Food in Cultural Studies Courses at the Lebanese American University

Food is more than nutrients, and my students at the Lebanese American University have learned this fact by researching, preparing, tasting and sharing stories about foods of the European Renaissance era: lemonades, custards, renaissance crostini, Italian lady fingers, Bianco Mangiare, English pancakes, blueberry cakes, Salami biscuit cakes, and coffee. A festival of palates, senses, symbols and identity markers.