A surprising look at how the Internet does, and does not, affect public discourse and social practice in the Middle East and Kuwait in particular.
Providing one of the first ethnographies of the Internet revolution in the Arab world, The Internet in the Middle East analyzes the ways in which the Internet affects public discourse and social practice in Islamic society. With a special focus on Kuwait, Deborah L. Wheeler offers an intimate journey through the lives of women, youth, and Islamist Internet users, and through their testimonies shows what the Internet means to various Internet subcultures in the emirate.
The book includes a historical overview of the values and design principles embedded in the Internet by its inventors and early adopters, and examines the major questions, debates, assumptions, and findings of the emerging field of Internet studies. Drawing on six years of research, including three years of fieldwork in Kuwait, Dubai, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, Wheeler provides a comparative overview of the meaning and manifestations of the Internet in the Middle East, giving careful attention to whether or not the Internet lives up to global expectations of promoting democracy, economic privatization, and personal freedom.
“…an ethnographically rich and informative account … Wheeler is to be congratulated for providing data on the basis of which comparisons can be made with the accounts of Internet users in other Arab countries and in non-Islamic societies.” — International Journal of Middle East Studies
“Wheeler shows—contrary to received wisdom about the Internet’s potential for democratization and decentralization through the spread of information—that it can be used equally to reinforce centralization and to disseminate antidemocratic thinking. The author’s familiarity with Kuwaiti society makes her account authoritative and colorful. Her treatment of myth and reality in the chapter on women is particularly readable and rewarding.” — Naomi Sakr, author of Satellite Realms: Transnational Television, Globalization, and the Middle East
“The strengths of this book are its openness and energy; the questions guiding the research, and the methods used to answer them; the subject matter—not well known in the West; and the coverage spanning multiple population subgroups.” — Mary Ann Tétreault, author of Stories of Democracy: Politics and Society in Contemporary Kuwait
Deborah L. Wheeler is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the United States Naval Academy.
Table of Contents
1. The Internet in Global and Local Imaginations
2. The Internet in the Middle East, Kuwait, and Beyond
3 Contextualizing the Internet in Kuwait
4. Women, Gender, and the Internet in Kuwait
5. The Internet and Youth Subculture in Kuwait
6. The Internet and Islam in Kuwait
Conclusion: Technological and Epistemological Challenges in Internet StudiesLessons from an Ethnographic Approach