Karim Stinner


A 2024 prizewinner for his Lauder Capstone paper “Exploring the Role of Shonen Anime in Promoting Saudi Arabia’s National Vision Among its Millennial Population: A Government Strategy?,” Karim Stinner (G24, WG24) discusses the process of writing a master’s thesis and how the research experience at Lauder has contributed to his professional development.

In his award-winning paper, Stinner, a graduate of Lauder’s SAMENA (Arabic) Program, examines the role of government in adapting shonen anime for local audiences in Saudi Arabia. A Japanese action/adventure genre for young males, shonen anime is widely broadcast throughout Arabic-speaking countries with high-quality dubbing. Stinner’s research highlights significant differences between the storylines of the Arabic dubs and the original Japanese versions, noting government efforts to culturally adapt anime to promote socially and culturally acceptable themes in line with national transformation goals.

What led you to choose this particular topic?

My fascination with anime has been a lifelong passion. This journey began during my childhood in Egypt, where shonen anime was a staple on Arabic-language cartoon channels. For context, shonen anime targets a younger male audience with themes of action and adventure as opposed to seinen anime which caters to adults with more mature themes.

These shows were dubbed in Modern Standard Arabic, also known as Fusha Arabic, which is a formal version of the language used in business, politics, and journalism. Unlike regional dialects, Fusha Arabic serves as a universal form of Arabic which allows children from various parts of the Arab world to enjoy these anime series together.

The high quality of the dubbing and the alignment of themes with Arab cultural values, such as altruism, respect for family, and communal welfare, led many viewers to believe these series were originally produced in Arabic. It was only as I grew older that I discovered these shows were actually Japanese imports. This realization fueled my curiosity, prompting me to watch anime in its original Japanese form. In doing so, I noticed distinct differences in character portrayals and storylines between the Arabic dubs and the original Japanese versions. I wanted to explore further the reasoning behind these differences.

What was the most surprising or interesting finding from your research?

Having previously worked as a management consultant in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, I had observed significant investments by the government in national transformation. It was intriguing to learn of the extent of regulatory and governmental interventions in the modification of anime for local audiences in the Middle East. I discovered that these efforts were not merely about censorship or adaptation to the regional language. They were part of a larger strategy to influence the cultural and social development of the country through media.

What were some of the major challenges you faced during your research and how did you overcome them?

One major challenge I faced was finding anime fans in Saudi Arabia willing to be interviewed for my research. Many millennials, the primary focus of my study, had not watched shonen anime for almost two decades. To overcome this, I leveraged my network and asked friends in Saudi Arabia to connect me with current seinen anime fans. Through these connections, I managed to speak with fans who had transitioned from shonen to seinen anime. This approach allowed me to gather valuable insights from individuals who had a historical perspective on shonen anime and its impact on their lives.

Based on your experience, what advice would you give to students who are about to start working on their master’s thesis?

First, consider choosing a topic that diverges from your core studies if it allows you to explore new areas of interest. For instance, my thesis allowed me to delve into cultural studies, aligning with the Lauder Institute’s focus on understanding cultural nuances in specific regions. This added a unique dimension to my research and academic experience.

Second, select a topic that genuinely resonates with your personal interests. Researching something you are personally passionate about can significantly enhance your engagement and enjoyment throughout the process. This intrinsic motivation will sustain you through the challenges of research and writing.

Are there any resources or strategies you found particularly useful?

Working closely with advisors is invaluable. My advisors, Dr. Mireia Lizandra and Dr. Kanyinsola Obayan, were instrumental in helping me refine my hypotheses and structure my thesis. Their guidance was crucial in navigating the complexities of my research topic.

Additionally, I found that leveraging existing networks to connect with potential interview subjects can be very effective. Reaching out to communities and individuals with shared interests helped me gather diverse perspectives and enrich my research.

In what ways has working on this research project contributed to your professional development?

This research project has impacted my understanding of global media distribution and equipped me with a deeper appreciation of how media content is used as a strategic tool to achieve cultural and societal objectives. As I aspire to return to the Middle East, this nuanced understanding of government involvement in cultural initiatives will enhance my ability to contribute effectively to projects in the region.■