Posted on June 22, 2014

Dr. Mohamed Zayani, a media professor at Georgetown University in Qatar and an Affiliate Faculty with Georgetown University’s Communication, Culture and Technology Graduate Program, delivered the keynote address at the official launch of the new Media Studies Unit, a research-oriented initiative by Al Jazeera Centre for Studies.  The event took place at a gala dinner on the first day of the 8th annual Al Jazeera Forum held at the St. Regis in Doha. The theme of this year’s forum was “Change in the Arab World: Where To?”

In his presentation titled “The Question of Change and Stasis in Arab Media”, the Georgetown media expert mapped out the ongoing changes taking place in the Arab media scene today, and discussed the importance of understanding those changes in the context of the social, economic and political transitions triggered by the Arab uprisings. According to Dr. Zayani, such endeavor requires a critical reflection on the very concept of change: “What is particularly noteworthy when considering change in the Arab world is the peculiarity of the discourse of change. The way change has been conceived, narrated and framed is such that the fault line between change and stasis is very thin.”

Because of these considerations, the media expert noted, how we conceive of change is as important as identifying what those new changes may be. “Rather than think of what the Arab world is undergoing in terms of the binary opposition between change and stasis, it is more appropriate to conceive of change within the context of fluid, multilayered and uneven processes that exist side by side and thrive on a sense of hybridity and coexistence,” said Dr. Zayani, adding: “Taking account of this unevenness is very useful in conceiving of change in the Arab media scene.”

The talk ended with the observation that much of the change in Arab media may not be uniform across countries, or irreversible in their impact, but it is still an indication that changes in state-society relationships are taking place and hold the promise of further changes.

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Dr. Zayani has published a number of books on Arab media, including The Al Jazeera Phenomenon: Perspectives on New Arab Media and The Culture of Al Jazeera: Inside an Arab Media Giant. Commenting on the launch of the new Media Studies Unit, Dr. Zayani emphasized the importance of conducting media research in a region that is undergoing such significant transition: “Initiatives such as these open up the opportunity for collaboration between media organizations and academic institutions in a way that is amenable to building regional research capacity in the field of media studies, which as far as this fast-changing region is concerned proved to be a moving target.”

Dr. Zayani, who is also a Fellow with the Georgetown Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS), further noted “the potential implication of newly-established research centers in this region, particularly in terms of reverse-knowledge production—that is, knowledge generated from the global South that has the ability to impact knowledge in the global North.”

Dr. Salah Eddin Elzein, the Director of Al Jazeera Center for Studies, also delivered keynote remarks at the event on the importance of the Media Studies Unit, both for the Al Jazeera Network and the Arab world at large. The goals of the Centre's Media Studies unit include supporting Al Jazeera Network's mission to stay ahead of all the latest developments in media studies, as well as fostering cooperation between the Al Jazeera Network and the academic community.