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Discourses of Online Arab Resistance in the Diaspora in the Post-Arab Spring Era
When the Arab Spring uprisings erupted in 2011, the high hopes for democratization in the Arab region were accompanied by an equally high confidence in the liberating potentials of new media. However, twelve years later, just like the Arab Spring uprisings resulted in unexpected backlashes, there were equally disheartening reversals in the role of social media from tools for liberation by freedom-fighters to tools for repression by autocratic regimes. One of the outcomes of this new phase of political repression, and the accompanying tide of digital authoritarianism, has been the escalating phenomenon of Arab resistance in the diaspora. This paper investigates the deployment of new tools of communication by some Arab activists in the diaspora to resist their autocratic regimes at home and pays special attention to the various potentials and limitations of this complex phenomenon and its varied implications. Providing examples from different Arab resistance communities in the diaspora, this paper illustrates the similarities and differences in their deployment of social media tools and the discourses they spread through them for the purpose of political resistance. It examines how some diasporic Arab communities contributed to the struggles against their dictatorial regimes through deploying new communication technologies to disrupt, expose, and resist authoritarianism back home. It also explains why, and how, some of these efforts have been more successful than others in achieving these goals. In analyzing the ongoing tug-of-war between Arab authoritarian rulers and their diasporic critics, these factors are investigated through contextualizing them in the post-Arab Spring era’s political, cultural, and communication environments to unpack the potentials, limitations, and future prospects of the phenomenon of online resistance, as it reveals itself through these exiled activists and critics’ voices and discourses. Through investigating the shifting role of digital activism as practiced by diverse groups of Arab activists and critics in the diaspora, representing different countries, genders, political orientations, and professional affiliations, this paper aims to unpack the complexity, and oftentimes the ambiguity and ambivalence, of the phenomenon of Arab resistance in the diaspora, and the potentials and limitations of the deployment of digital tools by Arab diasporic communities to resist autocratic regimes. In analyzing the rising phenomenon of digital authoritarianism and its varied implications, the paper unpacks the overlaps and divergences between different Arab resistance communities’ mediated discourses in response to it and provides examples illustrating them.
Geographic Area
Arab States
Saudi Arabia
Sub Area