The Social Media Wars: Sunni and Shi'a Identity Conflicts in the Age of Web 2.0 and the Arab Spring


Karolak, Magdalena


Ph.D, University of Silesia (see Description)

This soon to be released monograph evaluates the role of the social media in strengthening and transforming religious identities in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Focusing specifically on Bahrain, this study assesses how the sectarian interpretation of the protests exacerbated social divisions and reverberated around the Middle East intensifying sectarian loyalties. The social media contribute to negotiation and re-construction of the collective identities of the groups involved in the 2011 uprising, which is visible through their online manifestations.

THE ARAB SPRING: the recent uprisings in the Middle East have been commonly called a Facebook Revolution due to the role of social media in gathering supporters, organizing the movement as well as coordinating widespread protests. While new scholarship on the subject has been already emerging, there is a shortage of studies on the post-Arab Spring influence of the social media and their role in identity transformation. The shortage of monographs dealing with the subject of Bahrain is especially acute. This study goes a long way in remedying the dearth of scholarly material analyzing cause and effect and focuses on the enormous role of social media as well as concomitant countermeasures.


1. Collective identity: preliminary examination

2. Religious identity and social conflict

2.1. Sociological theories

2.2. Psychological theories

3. Social media as new venues for identity negotiation and transformation

4. Religious identities in the Middle East

4.1. Shi'a and Sunni divide from the early days to the Bahraini "Day of Rage"

4.2. The Arab Spring and its impact on religious identities

5. Bahraini "Day of Rage" as an identity conflict

5.1. Economic, political and social causes

5.2. The role of religion in the escalation of the conflict

6. Measuring identity: methodological consideration

6.1. Content analysis

6.2. Framing and collective identity

7. Expression of Sunni and Shi'a religious collective identities on social media portals

7.1. Cognitive models

7.2. Relational comparisons

7.3. Social purposes

8. Future repercussions

8.1. Religion and rise of uncompromising attitudes

8.2. Shi'a identity: emergence of another "chosen trauma"

Dr. Magdalena Karolak is Assistant Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences at Prince Mohammad bin Fahd University, Saudi Arabia. Dr. Karolak received her Humanities – Linguistics from University of Silesia, Poland in 2011. She holds M.A. in Culture – Latin American Studies from Jagiellonian University, Poland as well as M.A. in Political Science – International Relations and B.A. in Teaching French as Foreign Language from Pedagogical University, Poland.

Dr. Karolak's primary research interests include transformations of societies in the Arabian Gulf. For the past five years she has been conducting fieldwork in Bahrain. She has published more than thirty conference articles, peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on the shifting gender relations, social media and new social movements, culture and identity as well as political system transformations in the region.

Bahrain, Social Media in Political Conflict, Sunni-Shi'a Relations, The Arab Spring, Saudi Foreign Policy, Religion in Gulf State entities, Sociology of Religion, Islam and Media, Religion and Violence, Bahrain 2011-2013, Gulf monarchy and the masses
Release Date: 
Oct 15, 2013
Cloth: 978-1-936320-71-4
Trim Size: 
6 x 9

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