Social Media and the Arab Spring: Searching for Emerging Identites in the Arab Gulf

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Abstract:

The series of recent uprisings in the Middle East is often referred to as a “Facebook Revolution” due to the role of social media in gathering supporters, organizing the movement, and coordinating widespread protests. Anti-government sentiment has been fermenting in Bahrain for the past three decades and has occasionally led to violent upheavals. However, the successes of the Tunisian and Egyptian popular uprisings provided an opportunity to bring international sympathy and attention to Bahrain. In this paper, I focus on the aftermath of the Bahraini Day of Rage. I analyse how and to what extent social media act as a tool for formation and expression of a transnational Shi'a identity. This paper is based on the analysis of web content written by Bahraini Facebook activists. The analysis reveals that the Shi'a community in Bahrain reaches out to attract worldwide support and that social media fosters the formation of transnational identities. This research also found that, in the case of Bahrain, identities based on religious affiliation remain secondary to national identity. The web content surrounding the conflict focuses on the content of the primary national identity: who is Bahraini and what does it mean to be a Bahraini.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2013

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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