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Centre for Media Studies, School of Arts

Communication, Culture and Politics in the Middle East: Theoretical and Analytical Approaches

Course Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year

This course takes up the study of the relationship between politics, culture and communication in the Middle East through two inter-related approaches, the first thematic and the second through comparative analyses of case studies, particularly in the context of the ongoing Arab uprisings which pose challenges to conventional theoretical and methodological approaches to understanding change, movement and politics in the region. As a starting point, the course draws on theoretical approaches central to the study of culture, politics and communication, as well as theoretical frameworks used in other disciplines, to critically assess the continuously changing media and cultural landscape in the Middle East and interrogate the relationship between media, cultural production and politics. Given the fluid situation in most countries of the Middle East, we will examine different aspects of these changes in the weekly seminar sessions to encourage new ways of thinking and understanding the region. The approach balances critical theoretical analysis of the hegemony implied by various paradigms with practical issues surrounding the use of media, including digital technologies.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate…

  • the role of media in the contemporary Middle East.
  • the different approaches to studying the media and the Middle East, paying attention to particular situations and contexts rather than making generalised assumptions.
  • the role of media, particularly social media, in processes of political, cultural and social change.
  • the relationship between the analysis of cultural production economics, power and politics in a fluid environment, with  with reference both to normative and empirical issues

Scope and syllabus

Term 1:

Provides a critical understanding of the relationship between media culture and communication in the Middle East and interrogates assumptions about the Middle East. The approach balances critical theoretical analysis of the hegemony implied by these perspectives with practical issues surrounding the use of contemporary media, including notably digital technologies in the Middle East.
The course also explores the diversity of political and media systems in the region and the different actors involved in media production and consumption. While focusing on a communication perspective, it does not ignore other factors that need to be considered when addressing the Middle East and its development.

Term 2:

This term focuses on different spaces of cultural production, including popular culture and new media, as spaces for contestation over politics and identities. It also addresses the various actors and spaces involved or excluded from these spaces.
The term sees communication as involving a range of differentiated practices, including the economic, political and socio-cultural, without losing sight of the structural issues as well as the contexts of cultural production and consumption.  Such issues are best addressed by a range of issue-based topics that focus on a specific medium or social issue.


Two hours of lectures and two hours of seminars per week for 20 weeks.

Method of assessment

Coursework: two 5,000 word essays, each worth 50%