The Virtual Bookshelf: 'Reality Television and Arab Politics'

Marwan Kraidy, Reality Television and Arab Politics: Contention in Public Life (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010).


Kraidy headshot (small)What does it mean to be modern outside the West? Based on a wealth of primary data collected over five years, Reality Television and Arab Politics, by the University of Pennsylvania’s Marwan M. Kraidy, analyzes how reality television stirred an explosive mix of religion, politics, and sexuality, fueling heated polemics over cultural authenticity, gender relations, and political participation in the Arab world. The controversies, Kraidy argues, are best understood as a social laboratory in which actors experiment with various forms of modernity, continuing a long-standing Arab preoccupation with specifying terms of engagement with Western modernity. Women and youth take center stage in this process. Against the backdrop of dramatic upheaval in the Middle East, this book challenges the notion of a monolithic “Arab Street” and offers an original perspective on Arab media, shifting attention away from a narrow focus on al-Jazeera toward a vibrant media sphere that compels broad popular engagement and contentious political performance.

Writing in Political Communication, Paddy Scannell called Reality Television and Arab Politics a “pioneering study of the impact of Arab RTV entertainment genres,” that “is an important contribution to our understanding of the global impact of media and communication.” The book, Scannell concludes, “deserves the widest possible readership across the humanities and social sciences." Reality Television and Arab Politics received the 2011 Diamond Anniversary Book Award from the National Communication Association.

Marwan M. Kraidy is a Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. A scholar of global communication and an expert on Arab media and politics, Kraidy was previously a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the founding director of the Arab Media and Public Life (AMPLE) project at American University.

Watch a video of Marwan Kraidy discussing his book.