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Movements for Change

How Individuals, Social Media and Al Jazeera Are Changing Pakistan, Egypt and Tunisia

Rauf Arif

This book explores social media as an alternative channel of communication and resistance in Pakistan, Tunisia and Egypt, and argues that the term "Arab Spring" limits the scope of acknowledgement for the ongoing online and offline political uprisings in the Muslim World, which started beyond the geographical boundaries of the Middle East. Beginning with an exploration of the pivotal role of Al Jazeera and how it used social media content from protestors to make the uprisings a global conversation, this book takes readers through an overview of creative political protests in each of the three case countries, before delving into an in-depth examination of a specific icon that sparked each revolution in question, and an overview of social movements and the politico-cultural context in each country. In closing, this book offers an understanding on how the new collective memories of nations using social media to protest will affect future generations who are striving to rise against authoritarian regimes, including the Algerian Spring that is ongoing in 2019.

This book can appeal to a wide range of audiences, both inside and outside the academic world. Within academia, courses covering topics such as social media, social movements, comparative politics, Middle Eastern studies and global communication could use this book as a learning tool. In non-academic settings, journalism practitioners could benefit from this book to examine how social media can be an alternate media in the absence of traditional media, and how traditional news media outlets can collaborate with and utilize social media to perform their journalistic duty in oppressive regimes.

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Part I Introduction


Part I


The 2011 uprisings in the Middle East, commonly referred to as the Arab Spring, were widely seen and celebrated as a turning point in the history of the Muslim world (Bayat, 2017; Falk, 2016; Ghannam, 2011; Harb, 2011; Khosrokhavar, 2016; Mendel, 2011; Mir, 2011; Ryan, 2011; Salamey, 2015; Volpi, 2017). These political uprisings, which shook up several countries in the Muslim world, started in Tunisia in 2010, when a Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, doused himself with gasoline and self-immolated in an attempted suicide to protest poor economic conditions and police brutality in his country (Harb, 2011; Mir, 2011; Zayani, 2015). This incident paved the way for online and real-world political protests in 18 Arab countries in North Africa and the Middle East (Ghannam, 2011), and points toward a new era of social movements and protests in the digital age (Gerbaudo, 2018; Hänska Ahy, 2016; Volpi & Clark, 2018).

The Problem

This book argues that the term Arab Spring is unnecessarily limiting in scope because of its tendency to interpret the political insurrections that have taken place in many Muslim-majority countries only in the context of the Arabic-speaking ←1 | 2→Middle East. In fact, the ongoing political struggles in Muslim-majority countries are part of a much bigger phenomenon than the Arab Spring.

For purposes of simplicity, this book will use the term Muslim world instead of Arab world. By Muslim world, the author means all the...

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