The Knowledge Society: Text and Orality in Qatar

By Jesse Ulmer.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Since the discovery of oil in 1971, the Gulf state of Qatar has been on the fast-track to modernization. Realizing that Qatar cannot rely indefinitely on non-renewable fossil fuels to support the development of its people, the Qatari government has launched an ambitious campaign to transform the country from an industrial to a knowledge-based society by 2018. This process is complicated, however, by Qatar’s deep-rooted history and current status as a primarily oral society. Because a knowledge-based society relies heavily on the ability to interface on a sophisticated level with many different forms of textual information, Qatar’s transition to a knowledge-based society must be accompanied by a shift from orality as the primary means of communication and information sharing to a society that is more text-oriented. The ability to read and write on an advanced level, this paper argues, is essential to establishing this basic foundation.
Education City, a 2500-acre campus located on the outskirts of the capital city, Doha, embodies one of the most powerful forces behind Qatar’s drive towards a knowledge-based society. Currently housing six American branch campuses, one of the principal goals of Education City is to bring the best of American-style higher education to assist in the country’s development of an information-based society. Yet, if these American universities are to truly succeeed in this endeavour, they must pro-actively confront the fact that the majority of Qatari students continue to operate within an oral society. This paper examines the relationship between Education City, Qatar’s desire to create a knowledge-society and the country’s status as a primarily oral culture. The purpose of this paper is to identify a heretofore underestimated problem and to help define a new area of research.

Keywords: Knowledge-Society, Knowledge-Economy, Oral Society, Orality, Literacy, Prose Literacy, Middle-East, American Education Abroad, ESL, Information Society

International Journal of the Book, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp.109-114. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 473.204KB).

Jesse Ulmer

Assistant Professor of English, General Education Program, Virginia Commonwealth University, Doha, Qatar

Jesse Ulmer is currently an Assistant Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts in Doha, Qatar. He completed his undergraduate work in English Studies at Minnesota State University Moorhead in Moorhead, Minnesota, and his graduate work in English Literature at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Since last January he has been teaching research and writing to Arabic speaking students in Doha, Qatar. His research interests include science fiction, cross-cultural studies, writing, and teaching English as a second language to Arabic speaking students.

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