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The Middle East Studies Forum invites you to the webinar on
Satire and the State in Saudi Arabia

Dr Jessie Moritz (Australian National University )

How do satirists navigate highly repressive authoritarian environments? And how do they respond to attempts to coopt their work by the state? In post-2015 Saudi Arabia, the state has violently repressed political opposition while seeking to expand, in a top-down manner, the arts and entertainment sectors. I draw on interviews with key Saudi filmmakers and stand-up comedians to discuss the emergence of a post-2000 generation of artists, whose work engages with an internet-savvy youth via YouTube and other online streaming platforms. While they avoid direct criticism of rulers, their work continues to poke fun at corruption, gender inequalities, mismanagement, and other contemporary issues relevant to Saudi youth. While non-fiction satirical talk shows have faced repression and been closed, fictional works have allowed for greater freedom of topics and discussion. I challenge depictions of the Saudi state as a cohesive actor, noting how satirists can poke fun at one actor within the state while being tolerated, or even supported, by another. The research reveals the agency and adaptability of Saudi artists and the importance of looking beyond contentious politics and formal political activism in order to understand the relationship between state and society in repressive authoritarian states.

You can access the webinar flyer here.

Speaker bio:

Dr Jessie Moritz is a Lecturer at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (CAIS) at the ANU, specialising in the impact of oil and gas wealth on domestic politics and economic development in the Arabian Peninsula. Jessie’s research is based on in-depth in-country fieldwork and over 160 personal interviews with citizens of Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, including economic development experts, government officials, private sector entrepreneurs, and civil society actors. She has previously held visiting fellow positions at the King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, at the Gulf Studies Program at Qatar University, and the Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter. Jessie’s current research examines the prospects and politics of the renewable energy transition in the Arabian Peninsula.


2 June 2022

Melbourne: 4pm – 5pm 

Please join us via Zoom* and Register via the ‘Register Now’ button below by 30th May 2022

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