The so called ‘Arab Spring’ exposed societal and existential conflicts and fault lines which have been inherent within communities in the Arab world for many centuries. Digital media has helped bring the ‘Othering’ of Arabs by Arabs to the surface in an intensity and to an extent to date unknown. The vast amount of big data now available on social media platforms, blogs, and internet news sites offers a unique window into the ongoing restructuring of Arab identity.
This thesis will study the impact of digital media on intra-group stereotyping. Taking the outset of the current conflict in Syria (2011) as a point of departure, an attempt will be made to determine whether the stereotyping of Syrians and Lebanese in Arabic language online platforms merely mirrors social reality or actually molds it. Using a sample of internet-based media sources, including social media and blogs, the othering of Arabs by Arabs will be surveyed. A research tool will be developed to assess the impact of Arab-on-Arab stereotyping on the generally accepted notion of Arab unity. Ultimately, work on this case study will help develop a methodological approach which can adequately deal with the larger societal question of whether media messages merely reflect shifts in the understanding of reality or whether they can actually drive social change.
Prof. Dr. Kai Hafez (Universität Erfurt)