Tricksters, cyborgs, and the musalsal: media movement and infrastructure gaps in Arab television

Heather Jaber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For decades, Egyptian cultural production has adapted the story of Raya and Sakina, the nation's first women to receive the death penalty for murder. In 2017, their story crossed borders as Warde Shamia, a Syrian musalsal, or Arabic-language television drama serial. This project discusses the story's movement across nations and mediums, exploring the way that it illuminates the precarious nature of cultural production in post 2011 Syria. In a space where production is often appropriated by competing nationalist discourses, the invocation of these women as tricksters evades and destabilizes nationalist appropriations. By turning to the way that content is driven forward by polarizing regional forces, this analysis takes seriously the productive nature of media processes in shaping content. It offers that the move from nationally broadcasted programing to regionally broadcasted satellite programing mirrors the transformation of national uprisings into proxy wars, reflecting a loss of sovereignty over nationalist articulations. It examines the trickster's role in occupying multiple positionalities, working to dismantle appropriative narratives of cultural production as always-already identifiable with a dominant nationalist discourse. Rather than asking how Syrian drama reflects reality, this paper examines how this adaptation reflects the conditions for producing that reality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-168
Number of pages14
JournalCritical Studies in Media Communication
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • Musalsal
  • Syrian war
  • drama
  • infrastructure
  • trickster

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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