This thesis explores changing discourses of childhood and the ways in which power relations intersect with socio-cultural norms to shape screen-based media for Palestinian children. Situated within the interdisciplinary study of childhood, the research is an institutional and textual analysis that includes discursive and micro-level analysis of the socio-political circumstances within which children consume media in present-day Palestine. The thesis takes a social constructionist view, arguing that ‘childhood’ is not a fixed universal concept and that discourses of childhood are produced at specific historical moments as an effect of power.
The study has a three-part research agenda. The first section uses secondary literature to explore theories and philosophies relating to definitions of childhood in Arab societies. The second employs participant observation and semi-structured interviews to understand the history and politics of children’s media in the West Bank. The final part of the research activity focuses on the impact that definitions of childhood and the politics of children’s media have on broadcasting outcomes through an analysis of (a) discourses on children’s media that circulate in Palestinian society, and (b) local and pan-Arab cultural texts consumed by Palestinian children.
The analysis demonstrates that complex ideological and political factors are at play, which has led to the marginalisation, politicisation and internationalisation of local production for children. Due to the lack of alternatives, local producers often rely on international funding, and are hence forced to negotiate competing definitions of childhood, which while fitting with an international agenda of normalising the Israeli occupation, conflict culturally and politically with local conceptions of childhood and hopes for the Palestinian nation.
While the Palestinian community appreciates the positive potential of local production, discourses and strategies around children’s media show that Palestinian children are constructed as vulnerable, incomplete and in constant need of guidance. Pan-Arab content presents a slightly less didactic approach and in certain cases presents childhood as a dynamic space of empowerment. However, by constructing children as ‘consumercitizens’, it alienates Arab (and Palestinian) children from disadvantaged backgrounds,as the preferred audience is middle-class children living in oil-rich countries of the Gulf.