Can the West accurately narrate the Arab Spring?

Present- Leslie, Julia, Alexandra

Scribe-Leslie and Julia

Our group decided to further research the “Arab Spring.” Protests and demonstrations swept throughout North Africa and the Middle East starting in the spring of 2011.  To date, rulers have been forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen.  Other civil uprisings have been present in Bahrain, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco, and Oman.  Currently, the media and international community is concerned with the extreme use of violence in Syria; the death tolls are unknown but all of them are in the thousands.  The protests have shared techniques of mostly civil resistance involving strikes, demonstrations, marches, and rallies, as well as the use of social media to organize, communicate, and raise awareness in the face of state attempts at repression and internet censorship.  We decided to research the effect and evidence of how social media affected the revolutions.  We found various articles written on the subject and found this one particularly interesting…“the total rate of tweets from Egypt about political change in that country ballooned from 2,300 a day to 230,000 a day.” “Ironically, government efforts to crack down on social media may have incited more public activism, especially in Egypt.”

However, Julia stated she attended various panel discussions in Washington D.C. during the beginning of the Arab Spring where the speakers had different opinions on the subject. Julia- The first conference I went to with my foreign policy class focused on the uprisings in Tunisia.  The speakers ranged from U.N. officials to professors; however, there were no Tunisians present.  When asked if any of them thought the protests would spread, all of them claimed they would not.  One speaker claimed because of Tunisia’s unique location and relationship with Europe, the protests would not spread.  A month later our class attended another conference and a student asked the very question we are discussing: “Did social media play a significant part in the uprisings erupting over the region?”  The speakers claimed, while it did play a role it did not play a significant role because many Egyptians do not have internet, let alone twitter/facebook.  It seems there are various opinions and analysis on the use of social media in the Arab Spring.

Julia’s group read the article by Naira Antoun, which examined the narration of the Arab Spring. The article asks how one can narrate the Arab Spring if they are not present.  “It is not simply stealing narrative, but stealing revolution.” How can the speakers at the panels Julia attended speak for the revolutions if they were not present? All of the speakers were white, is this surprising?  Said would most likely say no; the West sees the world as the East versus the West, separate and different.  The title brings up the point that Westerns saw the Arab Spring as simply that: Arabic, ignoring the fact several of the uprisings were in North African countries.  The West is scholarly and developed, which is associated with democracy.  Therefore, Westerns feel they have the knowledge and expertise to analyze such uprisings.  Said discusses how the West claims to know more about “the Orient”, better than they know themselves.  What are your opinions on the narration of the Arab Spring?



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