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The Media: The Neglected Discourse, Vol. 5 - 1998, No. 1

Communication Research in the Arab World: A New Perspective

, pages: 35-57

The article presents a normative framework for understanding communication, in its most general sense, in the Arab-Islamic traditions. The proposed framework draws on the notion of "world view" as a defining concept of communication in different cultures. It notes that an Arab-Islamic world view derives from secular as well as religious themes like dignity, honour, paternalism, faith, worship, knowledge and community. It is also suggested that the Arabic conception of communication would perhaps be grasped better in the context of the following dichotomous themes: individualism--conformity, transcendentalism--existentialism, rationality--intuition, and egalitarianism--hierarchy. In the second part, the author reviews general trends in Arab communication research during the early period (1950 to 1985) and during the past decade. The introduction of mass media studies into Arab was marked by strong Western (especially American) influences in content formats, media usages, and perceptions of communication effects. Published works on Arab communication may be classified into six subject categories: propaganda, development communication, historical accounts, international news flow, technical and professional works and general theoretical works. The latter have failed to generate solid theoretical frameworks powerful enough to account for the varying realities of modern Arab communications. The article also reviews selected recent books either written originally in Arabic or translated into Arabic and finds out that although translated works represent some of the best contributions in modern Western communication scholarship, they seem to hold little relevance for Arab societies. Books published in Arab, on the other hand, seem to dwell much on the descriptive side of analysis with little theoretical contributions. Their best theoretical outputs may be represented by macroscopic typologies of media systems that continue to draw heavily on western dependency perspectives.

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