FOLK-F677: Popular Culture & Politics in the Middle East


David McDonald
Course Description

This graduate seminar will examine the dynamics of popular culture and mass media throughout the Middle East (including Turkey, Israel, and Iran) and North Africa. Although performative arts, mass media, and popular culture are often considered epiphenomenal in Middle Eastern studies, this course proceeds from the idea that popular culture and performance arts are in fact foundational means for negotiating power and resistance, social interaction, and identity. Through our readings, lectures, discussions, and various written assignments, students will confront the many ways in which popular culture has had a formative and foundational impact upon conceptions of identity throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Our readings will build upon fundamental anthropological understandings of social groups, the linkages of culture and agency, and the various forms of power and resistance articulated through expressive, performative, and material culture. Various case studies will explore Egyptian soap operas, Iraqi comic books, Turkish heavy metal, Arab pop music, Israeli and Palestinian cinema, Algerian love songs, and the impact these media have had on contemporary understandings of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and globalization in the Middle East. This graduate seminar fulfills the area requirement in the graduate ethnomusicology curriculum.