Walter Armbrust

  • Fellowship Dates 2011-2011
  • Research Topic A History of New Media in Egypt, 1919-75
  • Fellow or Grant Type National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Affiliation Post-doctoral candidate St. Anthony's College, Oxford University

In Egypt, a variety of new media were introduced between the consolidation of printing in around 1919 and the introduction of the “small medium” of the audiocassette in the mid-1970s. This was the era of “big media,” characterized by institutional centralization and broad dissemination. Cinema, radio and television emerged along with the achievement of critical mass in printing. This research focuses initially on institutional histories of these media, then examines their cultural effects in four ways:

  1. The effects of colonialism
  2. Articulations with language standardization practices
  3. The relation between media and religious discourse
  4. The distribution of information, education and entertainment

The Middle East experienced waves of new media since the late 19th century, as audiovisual media were instituted on a mass scale – sound recording from 1904, radio broadcasting from the mid-1920s, cinema from 1930 and television from 1960. This research addresses the basic history of “big media” in Egypt, focusing on the press, radio, cinema and television. It discusses institutions, political and legal frameworks and key individuals and examines the cultural effects of media as powerfully constitutive of modern subjectivity. The research resonates with broader currents in Middle Eastern studies, social sciences and humanities literature and examines both how colonialism affected the adoption of mass media and how mass media articulates debates over language in the context of modern imperatives to rationalize. It examines the relationship between media and religious discourse and considers how information, education and entertainment were distributed in the Egyptian media. Textual interpretation of printed, recorded and oral sources constitutes the primary research methodology, augmented by oral histories.

TopicsArabic & Islamic & Near and Middle Eastern Studies, Media & Cinema, Popular CultureThemePeople & SocietyHistoric PeriodModern


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