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New Article on New Media in the Arab Spring

January 9, 2014

Academic PerspectiveA new article argues that most debates about the role of new media in political change are based on a false assumption–the notion that social media allows people to avoid authoritarian power structures, which in turn calls into being new egalitarian forms of protest cultures.

The article is entitled “Social media, protest cultures and political subjectivities of the Arab spring” and appears in the latest issue of Media, Culture & Society. It is by Tim Markham, Reader in Journalism and Media in the Department of Media and Cultural Studies at Birkbeck, University of London.

Here’s the abstract:

This article draws on phenomenological perspectives to present a case against resisting the objectification of cultures of protest and dissent. The generative, self-organizing properties of protest cultures, especially as mobilized through social media, are frequently argued to elude both authoritarian political structures and academic discourse, leading to new political subjectivities or ‘imaginaries’. Stemming from a normative commitment not to over-determine such nascent subjectivities, this view has taken on a heightened resonance in relation to the recent popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. The article argues that this view is based on an invalid assumption that authentic political subjectivities and cultures naturally emerge from an absence of constraint, whether political, journalistic or academic. The valorization of amorphousness in protest cultures and social media enables affective and political projection, but overlooks politics in its institutional, professional and procedural forms.


Markham, Tim. 2014. Social media, protest cultures and political subjectivities of the Arab spring. Media, Culture & Society 36(1): 89-104

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