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From Passion to Activism? The Politics, Communications and Creativity of Participatory Networks in the MENA Region

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

Cristina Moreno Almeida, Shakuntala Banaji

Original languageEnglish
Pages1-20
Number of pages20
JournalLSE Middle East Centre Report
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017

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Abstract

This paper argues that while platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are unquestionably allowing some young citizens in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region quicker, easier and greater access to job opportunities and likeminded groups and citizens inside and outside the region, class-based digi- tal divides exist, scepticism of new media remains, online surveillance and harass- ment are rife, and social media fatigue is common. Existing community structures, creativity and emerging media remain important for youth participatory civic networks in Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Communities, local neighbourhoods, pri- vate and public spaces, and commercial media cultures vie for position in young people’s social worlds and civic identi- ties. Young Emiratis, expats, Jordanians, Jordanian Palestinians, Moroccans and Tunisians practice their political values and social relationships in networks that are strongly inflected by social class and gender. Indigeneity, race and sexual- ity also inflect the cultural histories and practices on which young people in the region draw. Individual charisma, self-ex- ploitation, arts and crafts, old media tools and local friendship or kinship networks are still the basis for much civic solidarity, political trust, critique and creative dis- semination in the MENA region. This has profound implications for technologically oriented protest narratives, for discussions of personalisation, and for democracy.

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