Asthana’s book examines youth media in Middle East

Dr. Sanjay Asthana on a West Jerusalem street.

Dr. Sanjay Asthana on a West Jerusalem street.

Dr. Sanjay Asthana’s new book, Palestinian Youth Media and the Pedagogies of Estrangement, is a first-hand examination of Palestinian and Israeli youth and their interactions with media in a troubled region of our world. Asthana, professor in the School of Journalism, teaches courses in globalization, communication technologies, visual communication and cultural studies. His book was just published by Palgrave Macmillan in November 2015. Asthana answered some questions about his most recent work.

What inspired you to write your book Palestinian Youth Media and the Pedagogies of Estrangement?

My research pursuits stem from my own experiences and interest in youth media, which began with a proposal I sketched in 2004. That eventually led to a monograph on youth media engagements from the Global South and was published by UNESCO in 2006. My subsequent research on youth media dealt with a set of interlinked themes around questions of the capacity of children and youth to give an account, narrate and resist, even under difficult socioeconomic situations wrought by global capitalism.

Dr. Sanjay Asthana with Israeli law enforcement at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.

Dr. Sanjay Asthana with an Israeli military unit at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.

Building upon my UNESCO monograph, I researched youth media projects from the United States, South Africa, India, Israel and Palestine that was published as a book in 2012.  It was during this time I decided to write a proposal on Palestinian and Israeli youth media practices and apply for a large grant that would enable me to travel and carryout extensive fieldwork in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Haifa and Tel Aviv. I won a $254,000 research grant awarded by the Qatar National Research Fund to study youth media initiatives in Palestine and Israel. The grant ran for two years (2013-2014).

I made three field visits to Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus, Haifa and Hebron. Although I was aware that my fieldwork in the Middle East would be tough, I did not anticipate that it would be difficult – especially with the Israeli security checks on the ground. Although not part of my research work, I have been interested in studying children and young people at the school of peace in the village of Wahat al-Salam – Neve Shalom (“Oasis of Peace” in Arabic and Hebrew) in Israel, where Jews and Palestinian Arabs of Israeli citizenship are working toward building peace.

How long have you been interested in this subject matter?

My research interests are heterodox and draw theoretical insights from media, communication and cultural studies, and my intellectual pursuits are imbued with an abiding commitment to questions of social justice and power modalities around race, class, gender and the “other.” A personal note: I lost my father when I was 10 years old and was raised along with four siblings – a brother and three sisters – by my mother. These were the most difficult years for me, living under precarious socioeconomic circumstances and struggling to stay in school. To meet part of my family’s financial needs, I began tutoring younger children at age 14 and this lasted well into my late 20s. This, along with my subsequent work at youth radio in India, turned out to be a rewarding experience very early in my life and continues to inspire me about education. It also enabled me to better understand the life-worlds of childhood and youth.

How did you meet your co-author, Nishan Havandjian, and what made you decide to write this book together?

Sanjay's book cover 2015I developed my proposal and submitted to the Qatar Foundation, but per the subsequent requirements of the grant requirements, I had to select someone from Qatar as my co-researcher. It turned out to be a rather difficult process searching for a co-investigator from Doha until I chose Nishan Havandjian from the Qatar University.

What are you working on now?

Presently, I am involved in a project on the topic of marginalized youth, digital media and social justice. Next, I would like to examine several youth media initiatives in the U.S. (Youth Press, Wide Angle, Radio Arte and Radio Rookies). The rise of inexpensive and low-end information and communication technologies and digital media has enabled possibilities for alternative forms of communication and forging of solidarities across national and geographical boundaries that my previous research examined.

A lot of people – academics, policymakers and journalists, among others – have written about the Internet and the World Wide Web in both positive and negative terms. For me, this sort of binary approach does not help. In fact, the congeries of power, domination, agency and resistance all intersect in complex ways that require a more nuanced understanding of the Internet and digital media forms. What I noticed is that marginalized youth – no matter where they come from – are drawing upon a variety of media forms to sketch, develop and construct their own stories in interesting ways. I look at how, and in what particular ways, young people offer critiques of politics, identity, democracy and public sphere that are playing out in their daily lives.

Please click here for more information or to order Dr. Asthana’s book.




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