Anonymous, 15 Dec 2017
Research on Middle East, Islam and digital media
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Remixing the Spring!: Connective leadership and read-write practices in the 2011 Arab uprisings

This article discusses the connections between the unfolding of the 2011 Arab uprisings and the “culture of the net”. Being far from overestimating the role that Internet has played in the uprisings, we propose to look at it not as an ensemble of tools, applications and technologies; but as a specific set of values, behaviors, skills and strategies that define the cultural dimension of the web. The article shows how linking, sharing and remixing have been among the core cultural practices behind the social movements that were successful in confronting Egypt and Tunisia`s regimes. We also discuss how, despite the fact that the Syrian uprising has not achieved its political goal, yet it shares a similar cultural framework based on participation, peer-production, remix practices.
CyberOrient

Beyond the Soapbox: Facebook and the Public Sphere in Egypt

The question of the internet as a forum for political debate is continuously contested. My research grows out of such scholarship but focuses specifically on Facebook as a virtual public sphere in Egypt. Based on an analysis of a note posted by Wael Ghonim during the January 25 uprising on the Facebook group ‘We are all Khaled Said,’ I discuss the structural and technological benefits of the platform, as well as user behavior and interaction with one another. Using Jürgen Habermas’ The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere and Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks as the theoretical groundwork for my study, I make observations about the internet’s ability to allow considered opinion, not just to record popular sentiment. I argue that while Facebook’s structure has both drawbacks and advantages for promoting discussion, the new medium's biggest limitation in helping to produce a virtual public sphere is user inexperience with the platform.
CyberOrient

Review: The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Information Technology and Political Islam

Howard's book The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy focuses on the relation between ITCs and civil society and democracy in the Muslim world. It assembled a database of indicators (for Internet availability, access, policy, ownership, structures and uses) cross-referenced to common standard measures of democratization and development for 75 countries with substantial Muslim populations.
CyberOrient

Review: The Arab Revolution: The Lessons from the Democratic Uprising

Filiu's book The Arab Revolution: The Lessons from the Democratic Uprising provides an overview of the context of the indirect circumstances of the Arab Spring and also takes into account the related sociological and psychological factors, which makes the book more interdisciplinary. It focuses on events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya but also covers other parts of the MENA region.
CyberOrient

Egyptian uprising: Redefining Egyptian political community and reclaiming the public space

The purpose of this paper is to understand and explain the emergence of a public sphere and the articulation of a new Egyptian identity. We argue that the Egyptian revolution, catalyzed by the social media, was possible because the young men and women succeeded in reclaiming the public space from the apparatuses of the post-colonial state. There was a contest between the protesters and the regime over the meaning of Egyptian identity and what it means to be an Egyptian. The protesters were able to redefine the Egyptian public sphere and redraw its contour. Through a semiotic and discourse analysis of the repertoires of protest, the symbols, the slogans and the images at Tahrir Square and on social media sites, we hope to show how the youth-led massive social mobilization redefined and reconstructed the civil society and the Egyptian national political community (identity).
CyberOrient

The Net Worth of the Arab Spring

When I was asked to be the guest editor of the current issue of CyberOrient, I realized this is a welcome opportunity to arrange and re-sort some aspects, points, and arguments about the role of the media during the Arab Spring. In the course of the events late in 2010 and early in 2011, I felt enthusiastic and overwhelmed - not primarily as a scholar with a background in Middle Eastern and media studies, but as someone who was part of the peaceful German revolution in 1989 as a young teenager. Upon reflection, I took up the role of a media researcher considering how the use of media shaped these events. Though much has already been said and written about the media and Arab Spring, it would be worthwhile after a bit more than a year to reflect and reevaluate the relationship between the media and revolutions. Due to my involvement in this edition, and after numerous discussions with colleagues, and students in my media seminar in the summer term, I frequently came across the following three points: the significance of mediatization processes, the online-offline dichotomy, and various kinds of amnesia.
CyberOrient

Affinities of Dissent: Cyberspace, Performative Networks and the Iranian Green Movement

This paper argues that the role of Internet activism in the Green Movement, a social protest movement that emerged after the contested 2009 presidential elections in Iran, lies in the creative configuration of complex networks that primarily interact through meaning-laden performances that carve out spaces of dissent. For social movements, especially under authoritarian rule like the Green Movement, cyberspace presents a kind of social space wherein imaginaries of self and other, resistance and power shape bonds of interactivity. Such bonds are described here as “social affinities” that are about contentious performances, actions that display intense emotions and narratives of protestation against power. Accordingly, the notion of “performative networks” underlines how the Iranian Green Movement, especially since the state repression that followed the elections, has compromised an interactive network organized around dramatic discourses and practices of contestation.
CyberOrient

Speaking of Invasion: Narratives over Arabs in Eksi Sozluk, a Virtual Community in Turkey

Since the day it was founded, Eksi Sozluk (sour dictionary) has been one of the most popular virtual communities in Turkey, fostering cultural and political discussions and acting as a public sphere. This paper examines contested narratives of hostility and hospitality over Arabs in Eksi Sozluk in order to trace the making of subjectivities in Turkey. I illustrate the ways Arab tourists are orientalized through the narratives of Eksi Sozluk authors who mark Arabs as dirty, disgusting, uncivilized, and backward. Next, I show contrary narratives that claim to welcome and embrace Arab tourists in Istanbul. I argue that a supposedly welcoming discourse towards Arabs also functions under the same ontological presuppositions of Orientalist fantasy. Finally, based on the conceptual framework of “Occidentalist fantasy,” I argue that the othering of Arabs in contemporary Turkey functions to create the illusion of a unified, sovereign subjectivity under the imagined Western gaze.
CyberOrient

Islamic Shura, Democracy, and Online Fatwas

Publications on the Islamic shura concept – Arabic and English – usually include a comparison with present-day liberal democracy. This paper addresses the issue of shura and democracy from the perspective of Muslim communities residing in non-Islamic countries. How do muftis in their online fatwas respond to questions whether Islam and democracy can be reconciled? How do they address the issue of shura? This paper argues that one might well expect the shura concept to serve as a justification for the reconciliation of Islam and democracy or at least find the shura concept to be a distinctly Islamic understanding of democracy. The online fatwas considered for this survey (from AskImam.org, IslamiCity.com, IslamOnline.net, and IslamQA.com) reveal a number of distinct understandings of shura, which are nevertheless linked with each other – be they elections as an expression of shura, shura as a constitutional principle and perfect form of government, or shura in cases of hardship or the political participation of women. While muftis from all websites are unanimous in their defense of shura, their conclusions regarding the centrality and implications of this concept reflect the different streams of thought and currents they represent.
CyberOrient

The King, the Mufti & the Facebook Girl: A Power Play. Who Decides What is Licit in Islam?

Saudi Arabia enforces a ban on woman driving on the grounds that it is prohibited by sharia law. Women’s associations have actively denounced this ban for years, arguing that it was the only Muslim country which had such a peculiar interpretation of Islamic law. A power play is taking place online on this subject between the ulema (who support the ban), the Saudi authorities and feminine associations. This situation raises the question: “Who decides what is licit or illicit in Islam?” Muslim women’s associations merely ask for the implementation in Muslim countries of the “best practices” in Islamic law which exist anywhere, as a substitute for those laws which are unfavorable to women’s rights or do not protect their interests adequately.
CyberOrient
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