This semester, the Annenberg School for Communication’s Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication (CARGC), led by Professor Marwan M. Kraidy, is welcoming its inaugural postdoctoral fellows, Rayya El Zein and Samira Rajabi, who will be at Annenberg for two years, as well as a new research fellow, Bülay Doğan.
El Zein, a scholar of live cultural production; popular culture and media; and audiences in urban Arab contexts and diasporas, hasn’t always focused on global communication. She received her Ph.D. in Theater Studies from the Graduate Center at City University of New York in 2015. She has worked with theater companies in both New Orleans and Ohio, and she holds a master’s degree in Performance Studies from New York University, where she focused her thesis research on black face minstrels in 1920s America.
The Egyptian Revolutions of 2011-2013 caused El Zein to shift her research efforts to study Arabic cultural production. Being Lebanese American with family in Beirut, she had a personal connection to the events unfolding in the region. She wrote her dissertation on Arabic rap, exploring how Arabic culture celebrates resistance. Rather than studying rap lyrics, El Zein examined the political economy surrounding the concerts of Arabic rap artists. She spent a year and a half conducting fieldwork in Palestine, Jordan, and Lebanon, and was in the region during the Gaza bombardments of 2014.
One of El Zein’s projects while at Annenberg will be to expand her dissertation work into a book. She will also continue her research on cabaret performances in Beirut, which she considers a rich lens for examining nostalgia in the Arab world. On November 2, she will give a colloquium address at Annenberg entitled “Revamping Gender: Nostalgia and Affect in Beirut's Musical Cabarets.”
A 2016 graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder (UCB) with a Ph.D. in Media Research and Practice, Samira Rajabi studies development, international relations, feminist theory, and communication. She also has a master’s degree in International and Intercultural Communication from the University of Denver, where she first began researching social media as a resistive tool for women’s advocacy.
Rajabi’s dissertation built on her master’s research and considered how people use technology to make meaning, using three case studies: a CrossFit athlete who was paralyzed during an event, a photographer who documented his wife’s journey with breast cancer through photos that went viral, and a woman in Iran whose death was posted on YouTube.
She will continue to develop and expand this research during her time at Annenberg, considering similarities and differences between the mediation of Iranians in America and Iranians in Iran. Her own personal experience with a brain tumor diagnosis during her doctoral studies has informed her understanding of how online spaces can provide an opportunity for making meaning out of traumatic experiences.
Since 2012, Rajabi has been a Senior Fellow at UCB’s Center for Media, Religion, and Culture, led by Annenberg alumnus and Fall 2016 Visiting Scholar Stewart Hoover (Ph.D. ‘85).
Bülay Doğan is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Media and Visual Arts at Koç University in Istanbul. Her background includes degrees in political science and Turkish history, and her current research centers on hacktivism – when hackers make private information available to the public for political reasons. Doğan, at Annenberg on a Fulbright Scholarship, is exploring how hackers are presented in both social media and mainstream media and comparing the ways hackers present themselves with the ways governments present them.
For more information about CARGC, please contact Marina Krikorian.