Marwan Kraidy, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Communication, has published an article for the Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication titled "Reality TV and Multiple Arab Modernities: A Theoretical Exploration" (Volume 1, Number 1, 2008, pp. 49–59).
The media have historically played a crucial role in Arab encounters with modernity. But in contradistinction to the early twentieth century—when newspapers in Ottoman cities like Aleppo witnessed an intense debate about modernity (Watenpaugh 2006)—and to the Saudi intellectual war over modernity from 1985 to 1995 (Al-Ghazzami 2005), Arab media today are not merely a platform for debating modernity: they are also an important catalyst for heated, broad-ranging and highly public discussions about modernity. The reality television polemics that raged over the last few years intensified the struggle to define what it means to be Arab and modern. Though reality TV stirred controversy in several countries, the upheaval in the Arab world was heated and all-encompassing, touching on political, economic, religious and socio-cultural issues. However, the distinct form the controversy took in each Arab country suggests that ‘there is not only one form of modernity but rather several unequal and sometimes contradictory ones’ (García-Canclini 1994: 182). Debates over the meaning of modernity are heated in the non-West because ‘modernity’ conjures up social progress, economic growth, individual emancipation, or cultural modernism; or alternatively, cultural decline, loss of authenticity, and economic dependency. Nonetheless, if modernity involves ‘the coming to be of new kinds of public space’ (Taylor 1999: 168) then impassioned debates about reality TV constitute crucial moments of Arab engagement with al-hadatha.