Anxieties of Scale
Mass Mediations examines the role of mass-mediated popular culture in defining the scale and character of social interaction in the Middle East. Mass media are now as ubiquitous in Karachi and Cairo as they are in Dearborn and Los Angeles. Few question their importance in the contemporary process of constructing the boundaries of social identity. Although mass media potentially raise as many questions as sociological ingenuity can devise, in this volume we address primarily the larger, more inclusive issues that lend themselves to questions of scale: modernity, nationalism, and globalization. Our goal is to examine these issues of general relevance in ethnographic and historical detail. By examining a broad set of analytic issues in fine-grained regionally oriented perspective, we hope to shed light on the complex phenomenon of mass media without inevitably forcing the analysis into a common scale—specifically, the global—or reducing the analysis of modernity to a tension between global and local cultural forms. In particular, constructing the local so as to preclude consideration of the nation-state as a viable framework for modern social action risks analytic distortion. Together the chapters herein suggest that modernity need not be associated definitively with either nationalism (as it often has been) or globalization (which is increasingly taken to signal the irrelevance of the nation-state).
Our regional focus is the Middle East, which for the past two decades has been a lightning rod for anxieties about the reality of conceptual boundaries. In the wake of Edward Said's Orientalism (1978) the very idea of a Middle East has come under suspicion. For some the Middle East as a cul-