Community Paradigm in Media Studies: A Response to Hamid Mowlana

The paper in its first part discusses two early initiatives to study media in Muslim contexts: Hamid Mowlana’s proposal to apply an Islamic community paradigm as opposed to information society paradigm to study media in Muslim contexts and International Association for Media and Communication Research’s (IAMCR) initiative to form a working group on Islam and media to study the universal principles of communication in Islam. These initiatives, the paper argues that, come to a standstill as their projects unfold and the focus then becomes one that highlights either the similarities between Islamic and non-Islamic communication practices or the instrumentalist role of media in Muslim societies. Such an irony is of course inevitable when one does not pay enough attention to the details that structures the modalities of knowledge production and dissemination in a given society that direct the course of information/communication technologies. This avoidance looks to be a systematic one in both the major initiatives to study the intercession of Islam and media from the institutional vantage point of media studies, especially when one realizes that much of the sociology of knowledge in Islam can be understood and actualized in its concrete form as a historical expression of a particular kind of modality, its pedagogic practice and the way it produces and transmits knowledge. The present study then argues that in order to understand the conditions of possibilities that religious media affords in a community, one need to develop a narrative that will account for what can be broadly termed as the religious work of media.

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