The Saudi Blogosphere: Implications of New Media Technology and the Emergence of Saudi-Islamic Feminism

Author(s) Philip Tschirhart
Contact Philip Tschirhart, University of Missouri, 108 Switzler Hall, Columbia, MO 65211, USA. E-mail:
Issue CyberOrient, Vol. 8, Iss. 1, 2014, pp. 55-79
Published May 10, 2014
Type Article
Abstract The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia serves as a protector of the social, cultural, and religious epicenters of the Islamic faith; Mecca and Medina. While other Islamic autocracies have fallen in the wake of the Arab Spring, Saudi Arabia and its religious and political elite remain. However, threats to their legitimacy are growing. Especially relevant are increasing calls for women’s rights. The Saudi Arabian public sphere of the pre-digital era had effectively banned women’s participation in public. More recently, the spread of Internet authored blogs has created a new public sphere for women’s deliberation. This study seeks to analyze how the Saudi blogosphere, as a public sphere of deliberation, provides insight into the emergence of Saudi-Islamic feminism through a critical discursive analysis. Three discursive themes emerge to identify how Saudi women negotiate identity and manage dialectical tensions stemming from their intersectional positions: displaying and defending iman (faith), repositioning the ʿulamā,ʾ and restoring Saudi history. Taken together these discursive themes detail a Saudi-Islamic Feminist perspective that is emerging in resistance to Western feminist frameworks and in defense of a distinctively Islamic claim to women’s rights, education, and equitable treatment within the public sphere.
Keywords gender, Muslim women, Saudi Arabia, Islam, blogs