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Dr. des. Sabrina Zahren

Image Credit: © Klara Pfeiffer

Sabrina Zahren (1990, Munich, Germany) is a Doctoral candidate in Islamic Studies/Arabic Studies at LMU Munich. She is part of the research group “Arab Mass Media and (trans) regional Net-cultures” at the Institute of Near and Middle Eastern Studies. Her research focusses on Social Media and Influencer Culture in the Arabic-speaking digital sphere through the lenses of Critical Media Studies and Micro-Celebrity Studies.

Saudi Influencers on YouTube. The global, regional and national dimension of audio-visual content in digital capitalism.

Beginning from 2015 until today, the Arabic-speaking YouTube sphere is dominated by influencers from the Arabian Peninsula, especially from Saudi Arabia. They are fully adapted to global standards that I call the “global consensus.” Those highly professionalized actors are embedded in a regional media ecosystem, that connects them to advertising, marketing and, on a local scale, to nation-branding. Those key aspect of Social Media, as part of digital capitalism, didn’t get much intention in Arab Media Studies, due to methodological and theoretical reasons. I therefore intend to implement a hybrid perspective to the field, focusing on the Political Economy of Social Media in the Gulf, as well as on influencers and Influencer Culture. My method consists of a quantitative and qualitative analysis of 396 videos from seven commercially successful Saudi YouTube channels, spanning a timeframe between 2014 and 2022, and covering genres like “Beauty & Fashion,” “Family” and “Travelling.” The findings will then be examined through a global, regional and local/national lense to identify recurring patterns, aesthetics and narratives.

2022: Sabrina Zahren, Saudi YouTube Influencers, Their Relationship to Dubai and the Role of Social Media in Dubai’s Urban Branding Strategy, Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication 15 (2022), 259-278.

2021: Sabrina Zahren, Saudische YouTube-Influencer und globaler Konsens, in Konerding et al. (eds): Approaches to Arabic Popular Culture, Bamberg: University of Bamberg Press, 2021, 185-228.