Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The "Arab Street": Tracking a Political Metaphor

A view from inside Bab al-Yemen, the main gate into the Old City of Sana'a, Yemen's capital.
PHOTOGRAPH COPYRIGHT 2007 BY CHRISTOPHER ANZALONE

The Arab Street: Tracking a Political Metaphor

By Terry Regier & Muhammad Ali Khalidi
The Middle East Journal [Vol. 63, No. 1: Winter 2009]

Understanding Arab public opinion is central to the search for sustainable political solutions in the Middle East. The way Westerners think about Arab public opinion may be affected by how it is referred to in their news media. Here, we show that Arab public opinion is rarely referred to as such in the US media. Instead, it is usually referred to as the Arab street, a metaphor that casts Arab public opinion as irrational and volatile. We trace the origins of this metaphor to similar expressions in both English and Arabic, and note similarities and important differences between the English and Arabic usages. Ultimately, we argue that the Arab street metaphor misrepresents the Arab public, and invites dismissal of rather than engagement with Arab public opinion.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE.

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