Thursday, February 14, 2013

Knowledge Production Project

"Bassam Haddad, director of the Middle East Studies Program at George Mason University, put forth another challenge, declaring: “The mainstream discourse in the United States on the Middle East can be more important than what is actually going on in the Middle East itself.” By that he was referring to the simplistic and biased narrative collectively written by American scholars and journalists that influences or reinforces American policy for the Middle East and that in turn has had profound consequences for the region. He pointed to cynical shifts in U.S. media coverage of the Arab Spring. “Reports, analysis and writings on the uprisings in the United States during the first few months spoke of masses that defied authoritarian rule by going to streets and risking life and limb,” he explained. “However, there was no pre-designated location or space in the mainstream discourse to put these images, so they floated, un-theorized. No sooner than the uprisings became messy, chaotic, and violent, we began to detect a different trend. The media in the United States went full circle to interpret the meaning of the uprisings through the good old perennial lens.” Haddad told the gathering about an effort he is leading to address the problem of the distorted narrative, the Knowledge Production Project, which aims to accumulate and catalogue all material produced in the U.S. concerning the Middle East. The project will include everything from think tank policy papers and academic analyses to popular films and literature, collected in a database that will permit, he said, new inquiries into the connections between these plural centers of knowledge production and the development of U.S. foreign policy."