Living uncertainty: navigating gray-zones of unreliable realities in the Middle East (EN)

Karin Ahlberg (University of Chicago )
Annika Rabo (Stockholm University)
Carl Rommel (University of Helsinki)
Annika Rabo
Start time:
11 July, 2012 at 11:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Ruled by unpredictable, oppressive regimes for decades, people in the Middle East often lack reliable sources of information. This workshop explores how people in the region navigate discursive gray-zones, constituting everyday realities, and what sort of subjectivities such conditions craft

Long abstract:

The role of social media during the 'Arab Spring' and the increased availability of 'free' information in media landscapes previously dominated by 'state propaganda' and (more or less formal) censorship has been a contested topic in recent months. Taking a different approach, this workshop questions the applicability of concepts such as truth, information, rumour, propaganda, lie or conspiracy in the Middle Eastern context. Ruled by unpredictable, oppressive regimes for decades, people in the region are used to a lack of reliable sources of information, to an extent where they arguably know that no news and no information can be fully trusted. Everyday media environments are in other words 'gray-zones' of partial, yet certainly differently trustworthy information. To coin social media as a liberating factor, is hence arguably slightly off the mark. Rather, Twitter and Facebook have added another set of unreliable and contradicting voices to an already uncertain debate. This workshop aims to explore how people in past and present Middle Eastern societies 'live uncertainty', and navigate and understand realities that are always pre-assumed to be encircled with doubt. Inviting for contemporary as well as historical perspectives, the workshop explicitly wants to shed light on how old and new circulations of oppression and (dis)information are embedded in institutions, governments and the daily life of ordinary people. Furthermore, we ask how these gray-zone realities have shaped and continue to shape subjectivities and attitudes, as people live their lives in milieus where distinctions between known/unknown and allowed/prohibited are muddled and indeed arbitrary.