BİLGİ Media Talks: The Syrian-Turkish Drama: Sovereignty, Masculinity and Soap Operas

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Date: December 16, 2016 Friday
Time: 13.00
Place: santralistanbul Campus, E4-116

Speaker: Omar Al-Ghazzi (University of Sheffield)

Media Talks are organized by İstanbul Bilgi University  Department of Media.

The talk will be in English; there will be no translation.

This paper argues that Syrian official media have framed the relationship with Turkey in the gendered terms of controlling the latter’s entry into an Arab political space. The paper highlights tropes about masculinity, as imagined in popular culture, as playing a central role in the Syrian government’s efforts to influence public perceptions of Turkey. My premise is that discussions about soap operas have played a crucial role in communicating bilateral relations between Ankara and Damascus since the 1990s. Traditionally Syrian popular culture reproduced negative portrayals of Turkish and Ottoman “aggressors.” As bilateral relations improved in the 2000s, Syria took the lead in dubbing Turkish soap operas, which proved hugely successful all over the Arab world. The plots of the most popular soaps revolved around strong male Turkish protagonists, who exhibited different masculine attributes from seduction, courage, and wisdom. Those male characters, I argue, were important figures in improving the image of Turkey as a modern and reliable ally when relations with Syria soared (2000s). But they also took the brunt of attacks against Turkey when relations plummeted (since 2011), as they began to be portrayed as invaders, violators and immoral womanizers.

Omar Al-Ghazzi:
Omar Al-Ghazzi is lecturer (assistant professor) in journalism, politics and public communication at the Department of Journalism Studies, the University of Sheffield. Omar gained his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication. A former Fulbright scholar, his expertise is in global communication, comparative journalism, collective memory and activism, with a focus on the contemporary Middle East. Omar’s work has appeared in journals such as Communication Theory, Media, Culture & Society, the International Journal of Communication, and Popular Communication. At the University of Sheffield, he teaches postgraduate classes in global journalism and international political communication. Omar also comes from a journalism professional background. He previously worked at the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and at the BBC. A graduate of the Lebanese American University, in Beirut, Lebanon, Omar has an MA from American University in Washington DC and an MA and PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.