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Pop Goes the Arab World: Popular Music, Gender, Politics, and Transnationalism in the Arab World

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Assumptions are often made as to the static nature of contemporary Arab politics and societies. Authors, scholars and commentators look for sociopolitical dynamism in the arenas they are used to: newspapers, television and parliament/congress, to name but a few. When they do not see or hear these debates taking place in the formal institutions that they are familiar with, they are quick to assume that these reassessments are simply not occurring. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Arab world is debating itself on matters of politics, identity and gender roles, to name but a few subjects. The debate space that is being utilized, however, is easily unnoticeable to those who are not adept at finding these forums and are instead used to being presented with them. When public space is limited, any opening will be used to the utmost.

The ways in which the Arab world imagines and recreates itself is often through art. Satellite television and the strengthening of transnational media has helped the populations of this widely defined nation come into contact with each other in a realm outside of state control. Artists can become peoples' most important and trusted politicians. A medium readily accessible for consumption and easy to understand, popular music addresses important themes that speak to a collective audience and tie it together as a community. This paper seeks to examine the political, identity and gender debates that are currently occurring within the realm of popular music.

Affiliations: 1: Georgetown University, Washington DC

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