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The Press in the Arab World: a Bourdieusian critical alternative to current perspectives on the role of the media in the public sphere

Tohme, Hicham (2014) The Press in the Arab World: a Bourdieusian critical alternative to current perspectives on the role of the media in the public sphere. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

The current literature on the role of media in the public sphere in general, and particularly politics, is divided among two opposing trends. The liberal/pluralists argue that media is playing a democratic role consisting of either representing public opinion and/or informing it. The critical theorists argue that media is in fact controlled by and represents elite interests. But even critical theories of the role of media in politics are driven by the belief that media ought to play a democratic and liberal role in society. Both theories therefore share a common normative understanding of what the role of media ought to be and are therefore the product of a common normative ideological framework, the liberal paradigm. This prevents them from properly framing the question of what media actually do in societies which lie beyond the scope of the experience of liberal Europe. This dissertation seeks to transcend this debate, and the liberal paradigm along with it, by arguing that, given a different historical context than the European one, the practice and ethos of media develop differently, and cannot therefore be understood from the lens of the European experience and the liberal paradigm born from within it. To do that, I use Bourdieu's theory of fields to trace the birth and evolution of the private press in Beirut and Cairo from 1858 till 1916. I look at journalism as a practice, both in terms of production and consumption, within a social space in constant upheaval. The major metamorphosis of this social space, whether at the level of politics, the economy, society, and ideas, helped constantly shape and reshape this practice throughout this period. The journalist moved from being an educator, to being a spectator, and ultimately a politician. His role in society changed with the changes affecting the field of journalism which was born out of the struggles within the field of education, to become an autonomous field, ending up being absorbed into the field of politics, therefore losing its autonomy. The ultimate conclusion is that the question of the role of the media in the public sphere can only be answered with the more appropriate and precise question of what is the role of what media in what context.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Theories of media, Arab press, history, sociology, political newspaper, Bourdieu, theory of fields, Beirut, Cairo
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Politics (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.643627
Depositing User: Hicham Tohme
Date Deposited: 01 Apr 2015 12:02
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2016 12:10
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/8593

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