The recent and ongoing political developments in many Arab countries have given rise to important questions and new challenges that are highly relevant for communication and media studies globally. Since the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring, the role of social media in processes of political transformation has been a point of intense debate and hitherto dominating paradigms about transformation, authoritarianism and democratization of media systems have been revisited.
On the international level, especially U.S. American approaches and research is visible. However, this often overshadows alternative developments of our field, especially in regional and local contexts. The exchange between Arab and German scholars is meant to give new impulses for the research in the scholars' different local and regional settings. In this context, it is important to open up the perspective of western communication studies in a post-colonial sense by considering Arab scholars' perspectives at eye level. Furthermore, the experience of communication studies in the German Federal Republic since 1945 is worth discussing in order to understand pressures on and challenges for the discipline, in its national political and economic environment. The project is a valuable opportunity to initiate such a process of integration of different perspectives; the division of International Communication with Carola Richter's professorship provides the prerequisites to guarantee the continuity of this process beyond the short-term project.
Communication Studies is a rather young discipline whose position in universities may still be unstable in many places. In particular, during times of structural change in current transforming societies such as Egypt and Tunisia, it is important to maintain the relevance of Communication Studies in teaching and research. The exchange among the Arab scholars themselves, as well as among them and the Institute for Media and Communication Studies, offers an opportunity to develop strategies in order to strengthen the discipline's anchoring in its respective environment.
Especially in times of the still ongoing intense societal transformations in a number of Arab countries, it is of high relevance for communication studies to reflect on the discipline's self-conception. This comprehends the actual as well as the aspired role of the discipline in transforming political systems; it further involves questions of the field's function for training of emerging journalists. The cooperation of the Institute for Media and Communication Studies and the International Center for Journalism at the Institute, offer an ideal chance to make these discussions fruitful for all parties.
22 participants from six Arab countries discuss and exchange their experiences, needs and challenges in teaching and research, among themselves as well as with German scholars. The 7-days-workshop is the starting point for a long-term and sustainable networking process between the participants themselves and also between the participating universities and institutes.
Regarding research, the workshop aims at identifying the current discipline's orientation in the scientific field, at questioning hitherto prominent approaches and at broadening the spectrum of research agendas. The discussion of current developments in the field of empirical methods will give impulses for the participant scholars' own research projects. Furthermore, the workshop considers possibilities to integrate new media technologies and methods in teaching in order to enrich hitherto existing teaching practices.
In addition, ways of promoting young researchers will be discussed, in the field of journalism as well as in the field of academia. Moreover, participants will gain insight in current and possible future models of the administrative organization of their institutes and academic issues. These may comprise questions of ethics in science as well as the organization of everyday challenges in their institutes, including the integration of the different “status groups” such as students and teaching staff.
The full program can be found here.
Here is a first summary of the project (in German).
The 22 participants are teachers and researchers at the major communication studies institutes in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Palestine, Qatar and Oman. Based on the already existing cooperation between Freie Universität Berlin and Cairo University, twelve participants come from the latter. Whereas most are senior scholars on post-doctoral level, some emerging scholars on the doctoral level have also been invited. Here is a full list of the participants.
Prof. Dr. Carola Richter
Assistant Professor for International Communication
Prof. Dr. Margreth Lünenborg
Professor for Journalism Studies
Dr. Edith Spielhagen
Head of International Center for Journalism at the Institute for Media and Communication Studies