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Our Ancestors, Our Heroes: Saudi Tribal Campaigns to Suppress Historical Docudramas


  • Nadav Samin

    (Princeton University)


Scholars of Arab media have explored key aspects of Gulf-Levant media integration in the wake of the privatization of Arab media over the past several decades. Their studies tend to characterize the controversies that arise from this integration in terms of the relative influence of Islamist or religious values on producers and consumers. Yet behind these Gulf-Levant tensions, this paper will argue, there is also a different cultural logic at work, one that engages other dimensions of culture apart from the religious, and concerns the relationship between documentation and authority in a once predominantly nomadic society. This logic was brought to the fore in the controversy over the Syrian-produced, Gulf-financed, Ramadan television series Finjan al-Damm ("Cup of Blood"). The Finjan al-Damm controversy speaks to a number of concerns that are crucial for understanding social and political life in the Arabian Peninsula today. These include the nature of censorship in Saudi Arabia; the nature of citizen activism in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies; and the Saudi state?s attitude toward tribalism. Underlying these concerns, the Finjan al-Damm story underscores a new consciousness about the relationship between documentation and authority in societies transitioning from predominantly oral to textual cultures.

Suggested Citation

  • Nadav Samin, 2012. "Our Ancestors, Our Heroes: Saudi Tribal Campaigns to Suppress Historical Docudramas," Working Papers 1446, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies..
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:cpanda:workpap49.html

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    Saudi Arabia; movies; television; drama; history;

    JEL classification:

    • Z11 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economics of the Arts and Literature
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion
    • N15 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Asia including Middle East
    • L82 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Entertainment; Media


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