The press and publishing

Ami Ayalon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


One of the most intriguing changes affecting Muslim societies in modern times has been that in modes of communication. Once relying on oral means for all interpersonal activities, these societies have come to employ writing as a standard implement of social exchange and individual expression. By the mid-twentieth century, mass-produced written and printed messages had come to permeate public communication, supplementing, if not quite supplanting, the age-old oral modes. As ever, the changes evolved differentially in different parts of the Islamic world. But eventually they came to affect most people, relegating those unaffected to the margins of communal activity. The present chapter explores these developments, focusing largely on a medium whose history epitomised the process: the periodical press and its assimilation in Muslim countries, with emphasis on the Middle East.A late debut: Back in 1800, communication throughout the Islamic world was for the most part spoken, not written. As in most non-European societies of the time – and in Europe itself earlier on – people had little use for written texts in conducting their daily affairs. Official announcements were delivered by mosque preachers and town criers, and news was told by those who brought it from afar, then circulated orally in the community. Pious masters imparted spiritual guidance orally to small or big gatherings of listeners. Education, on its lower level, relied on the spoken word and memorisation more often than on reading and writing. Entertainment was likewise obtained by listening to storytellers and other verbal performers.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe New Cambridge History of Islam
Subtitle of host publicationMuslims and Modernity Culture and Society Since 1800
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781139055925
ISBN (Print)9780521844437
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2010


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