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Arab TV-Audiences

Negotiating Religion and Identity

Edited By Ehab Galal

Today the relations between Arab audiences and Arab media are characterised by pluralism and fragmentation. More than a thousand Arab satellite TV channels alongside other new media platforms are offering all kinds of programming. Religion has also found a vital place as a topic in mainstream media or in one of the approximately 135 religious satellite channels that broadcast guidance and entertainment with an Islamic frame of reference. How do Arab audiences make use of mediated religion in negotiations of identity and belonging? The empirical based case studies in this interdisciplinary volume explore audience-media relations with a focus on religious identity in different countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Great Britain, Germany, Denmark, and the United States.
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Where has the authority gone? New imperatives and audience research

Mediated religion in Arab media

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Shared, mediated experiences come to define the terms and outlines of social and political discourse. Through such trends, culture increasingly functions with a kind of autonomy that is in many ways unprecedented. At the same time, practices of religion are changing, with individuals assuming more responsibility for the direction of their own spiritual quests. Through their “seeking”, the influence and legitimacy of formal religions of all kinds has increasingly come into question. The power of legitimation is more and more in the hands of the seeker as she looks to a wider and wider range of sources and contexts – beyond the traditional ones – for religious or spiritual insight. This has all served to center the media in these trends and in our understanding of them. (Hoover 2006: 2)

This quote from the introduction to Stewart Hoover’s book Religion in the Media Age (2006) points to a number of aspects that characterises media’s role in the individual believer’s pursuit of religious meaning today. First, traditional and formal religious institutions are increasingly challenged by the media as an alternative place that can provide believers with resources for making meaning of faith. Second, it is up to the believer and media user more than ever to navigate and negotiate the many offers currently available. Third, accessible mediated symbolic resources are no longer restricted to one religious context or authority, but are embedded in not only different religions and different transnational, national and local contexts, but also in different media...

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