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"Media of the Masses: Cassette Culture in Modern Egypt"

Listening & conversation

with Andrew Simon and Erica Robles-Anderson


Saturday, Sept 10


411 Kent Ave.

Brooklyn NY, 11249


"Media of the Masses" investigates the social life of an everyday technology — the cassette tape — to offer a multisensory history of modern Egypt. In conversation with Erica Robles-Anderson, Associate Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, author Andrew Simon will play a series of key musical examples from his research of Egyptian cassette culture, and discuss how cassettes — comprised of little more than magnetic reels in plastic cases — empowered cultural consumers to become cultural producers long before the advent of the Internet.

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. Positioned at the productive crossroads of social history, cultural anthropology, and media and sound studies, and drawing on a wide array of audio, visual, and textual sources that exist outside the Egyptian National Archives, Simon's work explores the extraordinary cultural and political impact of a common technology.

Andrew Simon is a historian of media, popular culture, and the modern Middle East. He was a fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad in Cairo during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution and is currently serving as Senior Lecturer in Middle Eastern Studies at Dartmouth College. 

Erica Robles-Anderson focuses on the role media technologies play in the production of space. In particular, she concentrates on configurations that enable a sense of public, collective, or shared experience, especially through the structuring of visibility and gaze. Trained as both an experimental psychologist and a cultural historian she has employed a range of methodologies to explore the definition of media-space. She is currently writing a book about the 20th century transformation of Protestant worship space into a highly mediated, spectacular "mega-church" (under contract, Yale University Press).

Cohosted by Shift and Supplemental Space

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