Wazhmah Osman

Andrew W. Mellon Regional Fellow in the Humanities

20142015 Forum on Color

Wazhmah Osman

Assistant Professor of Media Studies and Production
Temple University

Wazhmah Osman is a filmmaker and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Media Studies and Production at Temple University. Her research focuses on global and transnational media, media development in conflict and post-conflict areas, democracy, and public sphere formation. In her upcoming book based on her multi-year ethnographic fieldwork in Central and South Asia, she analyzes the impact of international funding of media and cross border media flows on regional politics. Her critically acclaimed personal documentary, Postcards from Tora Bora (2007), which explores her family’s experience of war and loss, has screened in film festivals nationally and internationally.

The Performance of Freedom and Repression: Global Soap Operas and the Afghan Culture Wars

International dramatic serials or soap operas have found an avid viewership and new market in Afghanistan. The broadcasting of “foreign” media including representations of diverse lifestyles, religions, and expressions of gender and sexuality is fostering cross-cultural connections and understanding as well as clashes and contestations. While Islamists attack the popular serials for tainting an imagined pure Afghan Islamic culture, their large fan base find them liberatory in many ways. In this project I propose to study the most prolific of these foreign imports, namely from India, Iran, Turkey, and Latin America. Specifically I would like to explore how the cultural codes and aesthetics, including color schemes, of these programs have been interpreted, politicized, and violently debated by different audiences, government officials, and media executives. In other words, how do different publics differentiate between Hindu, Islamic, and Persian forms of self-expression, performance, and embodiment and situate their own their own dis/identification and dis/taste vis a vis their perceived cultural notions?