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State Control over Film Production in Egypt

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Scholars of media in the Middle East have tended to discuss state control over media production both as a formal and as an informal process. Formally, political and legal arrangements repress subversive narratives; informally, media producers are said to operate in a social and institutional environment where non-mainstream narratives are made unthinkable, leading to a form of self-censorship. This language of formality and informality is useful to describe the Egyptian state’s hold over film production, but it assumes a) that the source of control is some centralized agency and b) that the sphere beyond formal and informal state control is one of “freedom.” State control, however, is distributed over a number of institutions that cannot all be claimed to act at the behest of a central authority. Moreover, film production is always constrained by the kinds of factors designated by the label of “informal control.” Indeed, constraints over media content do not necessarily have to do with state intervention: they can arise by other means—e.g., when citizens interfere with film sets.



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Arab Media and Society

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Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Doctoral Award School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography (SAME) Grant, University of Oxford