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El-Ghorba: A Media Ethnography of Transnationalism among Arab Immigrant Families in Canada
Unformatted Document Text:  not too concerned about how this interaction is termed or perceived. Instead I am more interested in how the medium helps create a reality through culture, which justifies an ethnographic approach. Media research has come to recognize the complex cultural interactions that determine media usage and their often erratic nature. One can no longer conveniently generalize, along cultural lines, regarding television consumption and audienceship. Robinson & Fink’s (1984) research presented what they assumed were subcultural determinants to patterns of music affinity. Based on their findings, they observed that collectivity of media consumption is culturally determined. Although often a convenient generalization that may not account for subjective interpretations of the mediated text, it still helps us conceive of media consumption as a ‘ritualistic’ and ‘collectivistic’ practice, justifying the application of ethnographic fieldwork as a methodological option. Methodological choices and shortcomings. For the initial exploratory portion of the research project, I decided to conduct two focus group discussions (FGD) with eight participants in each. The participants were all Arab youth between the ages of 16 and 26 whose families had Arabic television subscription in their homes. The discussions were used as a means to evaluate some of the issues at hand and help develop primary themes that can be sought in the field. The process of finding families willing to allow me into their houses for extended periods of time was a trying task. Many were weary of my intentions and could not understand the goals of the project. After many futile attempts and endless phone calls, I was able to arrange to spend a week each at the houses of three families. In all three families, one or more of the members had participated in a focus group discussion, another benefit for FGD’s I did not foresee. Each of the families had a different character. The Abusheila family where Palestinians who had come to Halifax following the Gulf war. A relatively conservative household, the Abousheilas were very keen on the ritual of daily prayer. Their two youngest daughters had lived in Canada for two years, but their parents cut that stay short when they were concerned the girls were losing their faith and culture. Shortly afterwards, they moved to Kuwait with their father, the family’s breadwinner, to go to an Arabic public school to help acquaint them with their religion, culture and language. The mother, Latifa, lived with her eldest son and daughter in Halifax. The Abousheilas have English-language television whatsoever. They have been watching nothing but Arabic programming since Latifa arrived. The Hakim family is Egyptian and arrived also from Kuwait. Unlike the Abousheilas, the children in the Hakim family all attended private English-language schools and seem to have adapted quite nicely into Halifax’s cultural landscape much better than the Abousheilas. Their television deliberation time is spent arguing over whether the parents should watch an Arabic soap opera or the children watching the Simpsons. Like the Abousheilas and Hakims, the Atef family also moved from Kuwait. They are special in that the children in the family arrived to Halifax two years before their mother came to live with them. Of the three families, the Atefs are by far the most assimilated into the local cultural fabric. The two boys, Mohammed and Ali both have girlfriends who visit the house frequently and are treated like family members. The very concept of dating is frowned upon in most Middle Eastern countries, including the Atef’s homeland of Egypt. In each case, I participated in the daily activities in the families from meals, outings, television viewing, and one occasion even praying. In doing so, I hoped to gather as plentiful

Authors: Iskandar Farag, Adel.
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not too concerned about how this interaction is termed or perceived. Instead I am more interested
in how the medium helps create a reality through culture, which justifies an ethnographic
approach.
Media research has come to recognize the complex cultural interactions that determine
media usage and their often erratic nature. One can no longer conveniently generalize, along
cultural lines, regarding television consumption and audienceship. Robinson & Fink’s (1984)
research presented what they assumed were subcultural determinants to patterns of music
affinity. Based on their findings, they observed that collectivity of media consumption is
culturally determined. Although often a convenient generalization that may not account for
subjective interpretations of the mediated text, it still helps us conceive of media consumption as
a ‘ritualistic’ and ‘collectivistic’ practice, justifying the application of ethnographic fieldwork as
a methodological option.

Methodological choices and shortcomings.
For the initial exploratory portion of the research project, I decided to conduct two focus
group discussions (FGD) with eight participants in each. The participants were all Arab youth
between the ages of 16 and 26 whose families had Arabic television subscription in their homes.
The discussions were used as a means to evaluate some of the issues at hand and help develop
primary themes that can be sought in the field.
The process of finding families willing to allow me into their houses for extended periods
of time was a trying task. Many were weary of my intentions and could not understand the goals
of the project. After many futile attempts and endless phone calls, I was able to arrange to spend
a week each at the houses of three families. In all three families, one or more of the members had
participated in a focus group discussion, another benefit for FGD’s I did not foresee.
Each of the families had a different character. The Abusheila family where Palestinians
who had come to Halifax following the Gulf war. A relatively conservative household, the
Abousheilas were very keen on the ritual of daily prayer. Their two youngest daughters had lived
in Canada for two years, but their parents cut that stay short when they were concerned the girls
were losing their faith and culture. Shortly afterwards, they moved to Kuwait with their father,
the family’s breadwinner, to go to an Arabic public school to help acquaint them with their
religion, culture and language. The mother, Latifa, lived with her eldest son and daughter in
Halifax. The Abousheilas have English-language television whatsoever. They have been
watching nothing but Arabic programming since Latifa arrived.
The Hakim family is Egyptian and arrived also from Kuwait. Unlike the Abousheilas, the
children in the Hakim family all attended private English-language schools and seem to have
adapted quite nicely into Halifax’s cultural landscape much better than the Abousheilas. Their
television deliberation time is spent arguing over whether the parents should watch an Arabic
soap opera or the children watching the Simpsons.
Like the Abousheilas and Hakims, the Atef family also moved from Kuwait. They are
special in that the children in the family arrived to Halifax two years before their mother came to
live with them. Of the three families, the Atefs are by far the most assimilated into the local
cultural fabric. The two boys, Mohammed and Ali both have girlfriends who visit the house
frequently and are treated like family members. The very concept of dating is frowned upon in
most Middle Eastern countries, including the Atef’s homeland of Egypt.
In each case, I participated in the daily activities in the families from meals, outings,
television viewing, and one occasion even praying. In doing so, I hoped to gather as plentiful


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