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Please join us for the Spring 2022 event in our New Directions in Middle East and North African Studies series. Professor Andrew Simon of Dartmouth College will discuss his new book Media of the Masses: Cassette Culture in Modern Egypt (Stanford University Press, 2022) in conversation with two MENA Studies graduate students, Mariam Taher and Sarah Dwider.
About the book
Media of the Masses investigates the social life of everyday technology—the cassette tape—to offer a multisensory history of modern Egypt. Over the 1970s and 1980s, cassettes became a ubiquitous presence in Egyptian homes and stores. Audiocassette technology gave an opening to ordinary individuals, from singers to smugglers, to challenge state-controlled Egyptian media. Enabling an unprecedented number of people to participate in the creation of culture and circulation of content, cassette players and tapes soon informed broader cultural, political, and economic developments and defined “modern” Egyptian households.
Drawing on a wide array of audio, visual, and textual sources that exist outside the Egyptian National Archives, Andrew Simon provides a new entry point into understanding everyday life and culture. Cassettes and cassette players, he demonstrates, did not simply join other twentieth century mass media, like records and radio; they were the media of the masses. Comprised of little more than magnetic reels in plastic cases, cassettes empowered cultural consumers to become cultural producers long before the advent of the Internet. Positioned at the productive crossroads of social history, cultural anthropology, and media and sound studies, Media of the Masses ultimately shows how the most ordinary things may yield the most surprising insights.
About the speaker
Andrew Simon is Lecturer and Research Associate in Middle Eastern Studies at Dartmouth College. He is a historian of media, popular culture, and the modern Middle East. He holds a B.A. in Arabic, Middle East, and Islamic Studies from Duke University and a Ph.D. from Cornell University, and was a fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad in Cairo during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. His interdisciplinary research has received generous support from the Social Science Research Council and the American Research Center in Egypt, and his work has been published in the International Journal of Middle East Studies and cited in the Washington Post. Media of the Masses: Cassette Culture in Modern Egypt is his first book.