Reconciling the Scholarly Perspectives of the Arab Spring

When I first began to watch the national broadcasts of the Arab Spring, I honestly was extremely confused as to what exactly was happening. Two years later, social scholars are trying to untangle the confusing and inaccurate portrayals of the Arab Spring that national television continued to disseminate. In Demystifying the Arab Spring, Lisa Anderson (2011) attempts to take on the challenge of differentiating the Tunisian, Egyptian, and Lyban uprisings. I applaud Anderson for embarking on this challenge and taking a different focus in scholarship on the Arab Spring; however, I could not help but think as I was reading her article whether she was ever going to elaborate on each country’s unique characteristic posited to have contributed to the revolts. I think part of the mystification of the Arab Spring is that many of us are not knowledgeable of Arab countries in the Middle East or Northern Africa; Anderson’s (2011) divergence of the Arab Spring revolts is necessary because it is not common knowledge nor did the media often portray this perspective.

On the other hand, Howard and Hussein (2011) provide more insight into the relationship that we have focused on in class that of social media and SMS and the early Arab Spring revolts. I find it interesting that the scholars emphasize that the pervasive use of the Internet as well as text to discuss political dissent was in place prior to the circulation of Bouazizi’s self-immolation.  Furthermore, as the the autocracy attempted to control the networks, the information pathways shifted. This was also apparent in Egypt (Howard and Hussein, 2011). In light of this, I am reminded of Howard Rheingold’s (2002) theory of smart mobs and their networked-structures. Anderson (2011) states, “The important story about the 2011 Arab revolts in Tunisia…is [not] about how activists used technology to share ideas and tactics (p. 321).”

After reading the scholars’ perspectives on the Arab Spring, do you think it is necessary to converge or diverge the characteristics of the early revolts in the different countries? In other words, can the arguments presented by the scholars be compounded? If so, how or why?

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2 Responses to Reconciling the Scholarly Perspectives of the Arab Spring

  1. jlpirr says:

    You bring up some very interesting points in your post about the ways in which the authors talk about the Arab Spring. I think, therefore, that it is important to analyze each situation on it’s own, and then to see if there are any ways to draw in other readings. For example, I think that it is important to understand how each country works, such as Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia, and then by understanding how they function, if they have internet or not, what their complaints are, etc., then one can better determine their relationship, if any, to social media. I think that the idea of the internet being affective in revolts and protests is somewhat valid, but in the case of Libya, it might not be the only thing needed to do so. By dialing in on the actual happenings in each country, or diverging, the situations can be better understood. With this new understanding, one can then attempt to converge the readings in order to determine a better meaning. I think, by bringing the readings together for comparison, that there is something important to be said about the fact that Tunisia and Egypt were successful, but Libya and other countries were not. More so, we should investigate why that is.

  2. erikpeulicke says:

    I don’t think it is possible to effectively analyze the impact of the internet on these revolutions without examining the countries individually. Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia each have cultures and situations specific to their country, and it’s fair to examine what they go through on a daily basis before analyzing their internet usage. Different situations spur different ways the public could use the internet for social and political change. In terms of understanding outside of the middle east, I believe it is important, especially for Americans, to know about the early revolts in each country in order to better understand what happened in the context of social media.

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