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The roundtable aims at fostering a conversation between scholars on the everyday practices of social media in the Arab world and how this enables new forms of governance, subjectivities, and politics. We aim to collectively interrogate how social media is used by various political groups, how surveillance is performed both vertically (state-citizen) but also horizontally (citizen-citizen), and how to make sense of the novel authoritarian practices that occur in the sphere of online media. We are interested in discussing these platforms not only as tools of political (de)mobilization, but also as sites of cultural production, as technologies of surveillance and manufacturing consent, and as terrains through which national identities are performed and negotiated. As such, we invited a cohort of interdisciplinary scholars whose expertise covers various sites of the region from media anthropology, to journalism, and new media. Over the past decade, Arab states have developed various strategies to infiltrate, and appropriate online spaces through legislations, creating infrastructures of surveillance and disseminating propaganda. On the other hand, users continue to use subversive tactics to speak back to power, or rather evade it. They engage in hashtag wars, campaign for grassroots initiatives, crack jokes, and after all, they pursue their everyday lives and use these platforms for socialization and self-expression. But how to make sense of these digital platforms with the specters of digital authoritarianism haunting them? How to think of them as a part of a hybrid media system and as extensions of highly surveilled public spheres? This roundtable questions how these tactics and strategies take place, and what affects they produce in the Arab region.

Event details of New Media, New Politics: Social Media in the Arab Middle-East
Date 25 May 2021
Time 15:00 -17:00

Register now

By sending an e-mail to n.e.m.elsherif@uva.nl with gdc@uva.nl in the CC.

*The roundtable will not be recorded and all attendees are asked to abide by the Chatham House Rules unless any of the speakers explicitly requests otherwise.

Chairs: 

Nermin Elsherif, PhD student, Department of Humanities, University of Amsterdam.

Tasniem Anwar, PhD student, Department of political science, University of Amsterdam.

Nermin and Tasniem are both currently researching the politics of disinformation in post-revolutionary Egypt.

Panelists:

Miriyam Aouragh is a Reader at the Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI). She has studied the implications of the internet as it was first introduced (“Web 1.0”) in Palestine (PhD, University of Amsterdam, 2000-2008) to understand in particular the significance of techno-­social evolutions by analysing how a new technology coincided with the outbreak of a mass uprising (Second Intifada 2000-2005). She then focused on the political role of new internet developments, such as blogging and social networking (“Web 2.0”) for grassroots activism in Lebanon and Palestine (Postdoc, Oxford Internet Institute, 2009-2011). After earning a Leverhulme Early Career (UoW, 2013-2016) funding Miriyam set-up a critical research project in which she relates theory with online analysis through a focus on the complex revolutionary dynamics in the Arab world. In these new techno-social relations, marked by revolution and counter-revolution, she researched and wrote about the paradoxical context of online-revolution and cyber-imperialism. During fieldwork in Palestine, Jordan Lebanon and Morocco, she combined participant observation and interviews with media analyses and throughout her academic projects and collaborations in general, she relates online studies and observations with ethnographic (offline) methodologies, and theoretical focus on critical race, political-economy and infrastructures. Miriyam theorizes how the contradictions of capitalism shape the modes and meanings of resistance in the era of revolution and digital transformations. Her work is published in several books and journals (see Publications) including her own monograph Palestine Online (IB Tauris 2011), forthcoming book on Cyber Imperialism (2021) and monograph about the (r)evolutionary dynamics of protest in Morocco (2022). Miriyam teaching about internet, (global) media, (Middle East/race) politics and anthropology. She welcomes and supervises PhD students.

Hanan Badr is affiliated with Cairo University and the Gulf University for Sciences and Technology. Her work focuses on journalism, power asymmetries and comparative media systems. Arab Uprisings and media have been a focus of her research. Adopting a critical lens, she seeks to understand how political and digital transformations change journalism and media systems worldwide. She held positions at Freie Universität Berlin and the Orient-Institut Beirut. Hanan won awards including the Kluge Fellowship at the Library of Congress. She was elected as a Vice-Chair for the ICA interest group Activism, Communication and Social Change.

Chihab El Khachab is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge. He holds a DPhil in Anthropology from the University of Oxford (2017), and was a Junior Research Fellow in Christ Church, Oxford, between 2016 and 2020. His first book, Making Film in Egypt: How Labor, Technology and Mediation Shape the Industry, was published by the American University in Cairo Press in 2021. He has published regularly on Egyptian online humour, including in Anthropology Today and Middle East Critique. His broader research interests include Egyptian popular culture, technology, and bureaucracy. 

Marc Owen Jones is an Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies at Hamad bin Khalifa University. He completed his PhD in 2016 at Durham University’s School of Government and International Affairs, where he wrote an interdisciplinary thesis on the history of political repression in Bahrain that went on to win the 2016 AGAPS prize. Prior to joining HBKU, he completed a postdoc at Tuebingen University’s Institute for Political Science, and worked as a Lecturer in the History of the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula at Exeter University’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies. He is the author of Political Repression in Bahrain published by Cambridge University Press (2020), and has another book, Digital Authoritarianism in the Middle East, in press with Hurst/OUP (2021). He is also the editor of two books on Bahrain and the Persian Gulf.  His current work focuses on disinformation and fake news on social media, where he is pioneering methods in fake account detection and countering digital deception.