London University Hosts Conference on Popular Culture and Political Identity In Arab Gulf States





The new dynamism of the Gulf is reflected not just in high-rise buildings and booming stock markets. It is manifested also in the realms of ideas and expression. Writers, artists, musicians, journalists, advertisers and activists are all contributing to emerging identities in the states that comprise the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).


Popular and political culture is being shaped by indigenous, regional and global forces, both historical and contemporary. It is not an overstatement to observe that just as the Gulf is assuming a much more important identity in the global political economy, so is it in the process of creating new popular and political cultures to underpin its emerging, increasingly self-confident national identities. The conference aimed to  both describe and analyze how popular and political culture are contributing to and reflecting the development of these new identities.


Three major themes were, beginning with the current state of Gulf society and the various modes of its expression, such as art, music, drama, sport and patterns of retailing and consumption. The second theme explored the way in which these modes of expression are presented, whether through print and electronic media, or by advertising and marketing. Of key concern dealt with how the self image of Gulf society is projected and shaped by these channels of expression. The third and final theme invited participants to forecast the ways in which Gulf social and political identities will evolve, examining such issues as means of reconciling development with traditional norms; alternative ways of coping with pressure for change; and the projection of Gulf identities into the world.


Speakers and panellists included both those contributing to the emergence of new identities by virtue of their artistic and other contributions as well as analysts of this process.

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