More on Netroots Development in the Middle East
Early this evening I went to a panel on "Negotiating Community in the Arab Persian Gulf" which featured Fahad Bishara from Duke, Farah al-Nakib of London's School for Oriental and African Studies, UCLA'a Laith Ulaby, Leila De Vriese of Hamline University, and a chair/discussant whose name I did not catch...
[Leila De Vriese discussed] political activist blogging in Gulf countries, particularly Bahrain and Kuwait. She attributed the most efficacy to Bahrain's blogosphere, mentioning in particular the "Brain Farts" feature on the late, great Mahmood's Den. Overall, she credited the Bahraini blogosphere with generating a reconceptualization of Bahraini citizenship as part of an upsurge in grassroots political activism, particularly by Shi'ites. She also credited Kuwaiti blogs with playing a significant role in that country's 2006 Orange Revolution. [...]
... blogs have allowed women to participate openly in the same political sphere as men, even in highly segregated societies such as Saudi Arabia. ... In societies with high internet penetration, blogs can have a democratizing, community-building function. Although we've seen this in the United States, its occurrence in politically closed societies such as Bahrain is significant because of the nexus of people it can bring together in certain types of interactions. I don't know all the ramifications that the term "public sphere" has in political science, but it sounds like a local one may have emerged in certain Gulf states of a type that would have been unlikely prior to the internet.