New year, new beginning.
The idea for a blog regarding my field experiences has been kicking around my head ever since about May last year. I first zipped down to Amman in September 2014, but really it has taken me until now to gather myself properly and start being a bit more engaged regarding what I’ve been hearing and thinking about these past few months.
My field of study is Jordanian radio; specifically, private radio stations; more specifically, the kind of language and communicative strategies that are used by broadcasters and hosts of radio programmes on these stations when they interact with listeners and callers. This is what I’ll be writing about in my PhD. (Short, and outdated, bio and presentation page at the link here.) Though, really, the amount of fascinating insights to be gathered, and the pretty paltry crop of stuff on (Arabic-language, and especially Jordanian) radio that is already out there, means that I could probably begin churning out a 200,000-word tome on the topic RIGHT NOW.
For the sake of reflection, though – and also my own mental well-being – it’s probably better to take it all more slowly. This is in part a function of this blog: a place where my half-baked thoughts can be left out to set and churn for a bit in a form that’s also palatable to a more general readership; and, just in general, a home for various tidbits or anecdotes that I might not be able to write about academically, but are still very very interesting.
Because, however tedious or outdated the phrase “Jordanian radio” might sound, it’s still very much there. And relevant. And fascinating. From the daily morning bickerings between callers and officials held “on the line” by teams fronted by charismatic host-stars, to Islamic advice programmes discussing the ethics of dealing with ants and parrots, to rain-soaked field-trips to Gaza transmitting ten-year-olds’ praise poetry in honor of the Jordanian king – all heard and transmitted in what is in fact a very lively medium that goes far beyond the classic image of a lonesome woman (yes) spending her daytime hours listening at a radio set.
I hope to transmit at least some of this richness through this blog. The way in which the Arab world tends to erupt into the center of attention in English-language media – war, protests, martyr funerals, parliament brawls, studio shouting matches – resembles some special kind of hyper-real drama that often has very little to do with what life in the region is, in fact, like. Radio, on the other hand, is there; scheduled; consistent, day-to-day, a perpetual slog of sound aimed not at masses bursting out into The Streets but rather at people driving to work and picking up kids from school and worried sick about rent payments or whether the way they’d been treating people close to them is acceptable to God. What people hear, and listen, and call in about, and they also care about deeply. Even if, as topics, these things sound a little pedestrian – a little too ordinary – I want to show that the way in which they are presented can be just as engaging, just as captivating, as those fleeting images of dark-dressed crowds that flick across the screen during news reports.
I think there is value in this. Sharing knowledge, trying to understand, making sense of strange things that we’re confronted with, and maybe trying to implode some stereotypes along the way. I don’t want to present myself as a “cultural intermediary”; I’m generally very cautious about coming across too much as someone who’s entitled to speak about issues in Jordan, or Jordanian media – as if the people I’m conversing and interacting with on a daily basis don’t have voices of their own. I am, however, here; with certain skills and certain interests; and so I hope that the reflections I can offer, on a topic that’s not discussed very often, can be at least in some way useful to someone.
Here’s to 2015, then – and to it being more productive, and confident, than the year just past.