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Paradox of Globalization: New Arab Publics? New Social Contract?

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AbstractBecause social media is playing an irrefutable role in the Arab Spring uprisings the central question in this article is to what extent Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in general, and social media in specific, are contributing to the democratization of the public sphere and shifting the monopoly on agenda setting in the Arab Gulf, particularly in the case of Bahrain? How will these technologies continue to shape contentious politics in the Middle East and will their utility for democratizing and expanding the public sphere persist in the aftermath of the Arab Spring? Or will the increasing liberalization of media and freedom of expression that had preceded the Arab Spring experience a repressive backlash as authoritarian states attempt to clamp down on social and traditional media—or even harness them for their own purposes as seen by Facebook intimidation campaigns against activists in Bahrain last Spring. Finally—using the lens of social movement theory—what repertoires of contention and political opportunity structures will pro-democracy activists use to keep their campaigns alive? Activists in the Gulf have not only incorporated the ICTs into their repertoire, but have also changed substantially what counts as activism, what counts as community, collective identity, democratic space, public sphere, and political strategy. Ironically this new technology has succeeded in reviving and expanding the practice of discursive dialog that had once characterized traditional tribal politics in the Arabian Peninsula.

Affiliations: 1: Hamline


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