9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN18 Sociology of Communications and Media Research

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 POSTER SESSION Building AA, AA.329

"Cybernaut" Diaspora: Arab Diaspora in Germany

Abstract
Some European governments were concerned that cross-border connections could be subversive and prove unsettling to immigrant groups. When Arabic-speaking households in France started to install very large satellite dishes, the French authorities were alarmed, interpreting this as an affront to the country?s policy of cultural assimilation. Similar concerns about integration in host communities were expressed in Denmark and Sweden, where researchers charged with assessing the impact of Arab satellite channels on Arab immigrant households likened satellite dishes on rooftops to ears listening out for news of ?home?.

This presentation reports the results of a field study examining media consumption among members of Berlin?s Arab community. The study considered factors including gender and generational differences, their implications, and most importantly the effect of new media technology on the relationship between Arabs in the Diaspora and the Arab world. Results from the study suggest that consumers of Arab transnational media among Berlin?s Arab community have been transformed into ?cybernauts?-engaging in a virtual nationalism (pan-Arabism) which has been coined what Rinawi (2006) ?McArabism?.

For refugee communities, satellite broadcasting has become an important tool to overcome barriers of distance and time, and has considerably broadened the scale of Arab cross-border interaction. The news channels like al-Jazeera contribute to fragmenting the one-time national German news audience while, at the same time, creating a pan-Arabic and Muslim transnational public sphere, where people feel connected to their countries of origin wherever they might be. Thus, for exiled and refugee communities, satellite TV stations like al-Jazeera open up possibilities for what Robin Cohen (1997) calls ?multiple affiliation of associations?, and are giving rise to a ?diasporic allegiance?- a ?proliferation of transnational identities that cannot be contained in the nation state system.?