MedThinking Out of Mind, MedMedia Out of Sight


Socio-cultural, economic and political diversity of the Mediterranean (Med) basin does not seem to have been captured by the media. The visibility of Med space is obscured by its classical considerations that still do not think about it as a common space. A common Mediterranean culture is still invisible in mindscapes, though its landscape visibility is evident. Neither the media in the northern shore of the basin nor that in the southern shore has given it its due space. Common concerns of the Med countries and societies do not seem to have attracted media attention though the basin could confidently be called “the middle of the world,” as has the British novelist David Herbert Lawrence named it in one of his poems. The media still does not think Mediterranean. The Mediterranean is still not seen as a geographic and political homogeneous entity to be considered for special coverage or special programmes. Lacking Mediterranean media (MedMedia) means lacking Mediterranean thinking (MedThinking), and vice versa. The Med needs new thinking, new politics, new economics, and new media that covers these changes.

The basin is unique in its physical-geographical shape which has historically gathered around it some of the most influential cultures, religions, ethnicities, economies, and politics in world history. The French historian Fernand Braudel spent about four decades researching the Mediterranean history, in its diverse aspects, and culminated his work with three volumes that are now a classic in the field of Mediterranean Studies [1]. Braudel considers Greek, Roman and Islamic civilizations the most influential in the basin. Braudel’s work is descriptive as is expected from a historian, and focuses on the place of geography and especially the sea in describing the Med sphere. Beyond such a static view of geographies, despite the socio-economic and cultural influence it nurtures, such a view has to be pushed further, seeing the rapid changes world technology and international politics that have grown especially since the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Influenced by the historiographic work of the Annales school led by Braudel, Mohamed Arkoun was interested in developing a frame of thought that answers the commonalities shared around the Med, away from the antagonisms and rivalries that have historically characterized the northern – Christian and later modern Europe – and the southern – mostly Muslim Arab world – sides of the basin [2]. Miriam Cooke also tries to think the Med through her concept of “Mediterranean thinking.” According to her, this thought could start “acquacentric” in approach to develop an epistemology that answers the Med imagery that starts from considering the basin as a water-geographic space to an abstract frame of knowledge production – a kind of Mediterranean episteme. Med thinking can gradually discover the “medizen,” a term Cooke uses to refer to the Mediterranean Citizen who is open to three Continents – African, Asia, Europe – besides the Atlantic vast space the United States has contracted imperialistically, a contraction of space which communication technology has contributed to as well [3]. The “medizen” is historically and culturally a rich citizen who navigates in a vast space that is constantly on the move, like the water of the Med basin, surrounded by static-geographies but still able to flow nonstop.

Serious academic work apart, realities on the ground are far from convincing us that there is some “Med thinking” going on. Before and after Barcelona Process of 1995, re-launched as the Union for the Mediterranean in 2008, numerous bilateral, regional, and transnational conventions were signed for security, economic, and political matters. These cooperation agreements remain bound by unilateral-bilateral thinking where the waters of the basin are seen as a passage of goods, services, humans and also tanks. Med waters are not read or considered beyond the physical service they give to States. If States are not supposed to be neutral, have to defend the aspirations of their societies, the media, the supposedly neutral fourth powers, does not seem to have gone beyond the classic perceptions of the Med where societies and countries are looked at independently. If I take examples of academia – which is not always innocent or neutral – and politics – which is in essence subjective – and I try to see where the media in general stands in the way it looks at the Med, I can say that it still lags behind in its consideration of this vital space, located in the “middle of the world,” to echo the label of the British novelist D.H.Lawrence.

The media in the Med, like politics, sees in the basin just its waters. If it considers its shared and intertwined histories, it does either poorly and from a particular television channel or media space that is affiliated to a broadcasting company mostly from the broadcasting country. General examples can be provided. First, there has hardly been any multilinguistic attempt that produces and shows socio-cultural, historical, economic, and political dynamics in the broad Med. Shows and documentaries on issues related to the basin are produced mostly for national news consumption in the national language. The channels that produce also in other languages do so just for the daily news, mostly international news, which are broadcast for few hours, and sometimes minutes, as an integrated part of the one linguistic, national, channel when the broadcasting company does not have other international channels in other languages. There has been no project that aims at sharing “costs and benefits” in producing material on the Med through various Med broadcasting companies whereby the produced work could be shown to the “medizen” in the various languages he/she speaks. There is no television channel, or project, that broadcasts daily Med affairs using Med languages. Med thinking is absent in MedMedia.

In a vital region in the world where everything happens on a daily basis, there is no coverage from a Mediterranean point of view. In a rapidly changing world where a country’s political agenda or economic reform or mere video show may affect the countries in proximity, and possibly the whole region, the media has to learn to think a priori and to keep abreast of the slow, sometimes invisible, spirit of change going on. MedMedia has to grow as people’s aspirations in the Med grow because the basin needs new thinking, new politics, new economics, and new media that covers such changes.


[1] Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II: Volumes I through III, trans. Sian Reynolds, intro. Eugen Weber (London: The Folio Society, 2000). The first volume appeared in 1949 as La Méditerranée et le monde Meditarrenean à L’Epoque de Phillippe II.

[2] Mohammed Arkoun, Rethinking Islam: Common Questions, Uncommon Answers, trans. And ed. Robert D. Lee (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1994), and “Thinking the Mediterranean Arena Today,” Diogenes 52 (2), (2005), pp 99-121.

[3] Miriam Cooke, “Mediterranean Thinking: From Netizen to Medizen,” Geographical Review, Vol. 89, No. 2, Oceans Connect (Apr., 1999), pp. 290-300.