Activism in the Middle East and North Africa in times of upheaval: Social networks’ actions and interactions

Frederic Volpi, Janine A Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

We seek to better understand recent changes in social mobilization in the MENA region by analysing the formation and evolution of social networks. We propose an interactive perspective linking up contentious politics with routine governance through a dynamic articulation of repertoires of contention. At the heart of our analysis of social networks lie important questions regarding agency, strategic action and outcomes that have significance for social mobilization, social movements and politics at large. We outline how mobilization can change suddenly in the face of dramatic social and political events that transform societal interactions and adopt a bottom-up approach that highlights how micro level interactions in times of crisis produce specific logics and dynamics inside networks and shape what the networks achieve. By starting with descriptions of interactions at the grassroots level, we seek to explain macro level dynamics between networks and other players, including the state. In our approach, the role of other players becomes as important as, if not more than, structural characteristics. By adopting an interactionist orientation, we reveal the temporal dimension of strategic and non-strategic choices of these different players. In this perspective, the internal dynamics of the networks play a crucial part in determining the strategy of mobilization at the time of unrest; they also shape the possibilities for reformulating of the identity of the movement. Equally, the interactions between networks and other social and political players during episodes of contention contribute to validate or invalidate the internal choices of the networks; they also shape the impact of the networks’ mobilization on the trajectory of the protests. Finally, the resonance of the networks with the behaviours and identities activated by the upheaval simultaneously empower them as players and tie their fate to a specific type of demands and needs which may be more or less transient.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
JournalSocial Movement Studies
Issue number1
Early online date7 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • mobilization
  • crisis
  • uprisings
  • strategic choice
  • demobilization
  • resilience to Eimeria


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