Thursday, June 03, 2010

Sawt al-Arab in Manama

Back in this article, I expressed an interest in the reception of the Nasser-era radio station Voice of the Arabs. Here's an excellent bit from Nelida Fuccaro's Histories of City and State in the Persian Gulf: Manama since 1800:
"After the Egyptian revolution of 1952, radio became another form of egalitarian political acculturation. The broadcasts of Sawt al-'Arab from Cairo propagated the anti-imperialist message of Nasser, the iconic Pan-Arab leader who also started to target Belgrave and British imperialism in Bahrain directly. Regardless of status and education, Nasserist propaganda entered the heart and minds of Arab residents. Manama's coffee shops gathered large crowds of listeners, and in poor Sunni neighbourhoods with no public facilities radio broadcasts increasingly shaped the activities of the majlises of influential members of the community. In al-Hurah, one of the new popular quarters of Manama, personal consultation and collective gatherings in affluent houses started to be defined by the times of broadcasts as radio sets made their appearance in both outdoor and indoor reception areas."

The idea of people getting together in discussion groups to discuss broadcasts brings out something I missed in my article, and this is that unidirectional mass media can and does spark discussion, much like the cassette tapes I suggested as an analogy for web-based social media.

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