By Nada Ramadan
There is a need for more books that portray Arabs in a less stereotypical and biased way, an associate professor in the Department of English in the American University of Sharjah (AUS) said in a recent interview.
“Especially after 9/11 and recently with the Arab Spring, Arabs are often portrayed as being aggressive, fanatic and violent, particularly by the Western media,” Dr. Rana Raddawi noted.
This topic is addressed in a new book she edited entitled Intercultural Communication with Arabs, which has just been published by Springer in December 2014.
Speaking about the book content, Dr. Raddawi stated that it provides an insight into the ways Arabs communicate and interact with each other and people of other cultures. The volume explores the ways Arabs communicate in three different contexts: educational, professional and societal settings. She has contributed one of the book’s 18 chapters.
This is one of the first books on intercultural communication that focuses on the Arab world and is based on case studies, ethnographies and real life experiences of Arab and foreign scholars who live or have lived in the region, she stated.
She noted that other books have presented Arabs in a stereotypical or generalized manner because “they tackle only one group of Arabs that is not representative of the entire culture.” However, “It is important to show the humanitarian side of Arabs and that they are just like any other human being with basic needs, human rights and aspirations,” she added.
She said that, although the media paint a certain picture of Arabs, it is important for people to know the multicultural and diverse nature of Arab societies.
“There are Arabs who are blond, brunette, white, black, brown, covered and uncovered Arab females, Muslim, Christian and even Jewish,” Raddawi stated, adding that there are cultural features that unite them such as language, traditions and origins.
Regarding its use in AUS courses, she stated that she hopes the new book will replace the current one being used in intercultural communication classes.
“The book that is currently being used, although satisfactory, does not give an accurate image of Arabs,” she noted, adding that the chapter discussing Arab culture contains a lot of stereotypes, especially regarding women.
“Because we are in the Arab world, it seems fitting to have a book that is mostly about Arab culture, and then supplement that with articles involving communication in other cultures and countries,” she stated.
She added that there are plans to host an international conference on campus, “which will probably be the first about intercultural communication in the region.”
Regarding its use internationally, she noted that the book’s contributors are already promoting it in their universities and are planning to teach it in a few of their classes.
Raddawi stated that she hopes it will “pave the way for other books to contribute to a more comprehensive perspective of intercultural communication in the Arab world.”