Geopolitics, ‘Soft Power’ and Popular Culture in the Middle East
Special issue of the Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication
Call for Papers Deadline:
Papers are solicited for a special issue of the Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication on geopolitics, ‘soft power; and popular culture in the Middle East. The purpose of this special issue is to tease out the implications of American-led public diplomacy in the Middle East that is often characterized as ‘soft power’, while at the same time exploring how media professionals, artists and journalists inside the Middle East have co-opted, dissented, and/or resisted such projections of diplomacy. The issue also aims to understand the position of audiences in the Middle East and their readings of public diplomacy.
In light of the ongoing ‘War on Terror’ and the occupation of Iraq, attention has turned again to how countries such as the United States and Britain can use ‘soft power’ to influence not only domestic communities but also countries in the Middle East and Central Asia. Inevitably, the role of media, whether in the form of radio, television, the internet or film, looms large in such debates. The United States, for example, has funded new radio stations such as Radio Farda and Radio Sawa in an attempt to influence Farsi- and Arabic-speaking audiences in Iran and the Arab world. The Middle East has, as a consequence of American geopolitical fears of both Islamist militancy and Iranian power projection, emerged as the critical space for such popular cultural expressions. Geopolitics, in this context, refers to the representation of the geographies of global politics, and in the context of the Middle East, such representations are rarely politically innocent.
Scholars from a wide variety of disciplines including geography, international relations, media and communication studies have begun to consider how and with what consequences ‘soft power’ is deployed. However, a great deal of this work, especially by Anglophone scholars, has concentrated on the activities of larger corporations such as the BBC, Voice of America and al-Jazeera, rather than other forms of media and visual expression produced inside the Middle East. For the purpose of this special issue we wish to consider, where possible, the role of cartoonists, bloggers, public artists, television stations, video games and film.
We are eager to solicit contributions which engage with but are not limited to the following questions:
1. What role do American-led public diplomacy and ‘soft power’ play in the contemporary Middle East?
2. What is the relationship between ‘soft power’ and ‘hard power’ in this context and how is this relationship strategized and mediated?
3. What is the relationship between Middle Eastern popular cultures and American public diplomacy efforts? Can the latter be characterized as creating a ‘pseudo-popular culture’?
4. How are discourses of public diplomacy and ‘soft power’ discussed in media in the Middle East?
5. How can we study the impact of public diplomacy amongst audiences in the Middle East? What do we know about the audiences of media outlets like Radio Sawa and al-Hurra television? What are the rituals of resistance that accompany the consumption of their programs?
6. How can we understand the position of ‘soft power’ within popular culture in the Middle East? For example, can Radio Sawa be considered part of the fabric of Arab popular culture?
7. How important are different forms of media in the Middle East in terms of shaping public understandings of the region and extra-regional powers?
Deadline for submission of proposals: 1 November 2007.
Notification of acceptance of proposals: 15 November 2007.
Deadline for submission of manuscripts for accepted proposals: 1 June 2008.
Expected publication date of accepted articles: April 2009.
Proposals should be about 500-600 in length. They must clearly describe the proposed approach, and explain the contribution that would be made to the special issue.
Articles should be 6000-7000 words long and include an abstract of not more than 150 words that clearly defines the nature of the article. Up to five keywords should be included to identify the article.
Please email the proposal to Dr Lina Khatib, co-editor of Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that all articles will be subject to our peer review process and that the Editors retain the discretion at all stages of the publication process to accept or reject an article.
Guest Editors: Lina Khatib and Klaus Dodds (Royal Holloway, University of London)
MEJCC is a peer-reviewed journal published by Brill; the first issue is coming out in June 2008.
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