Broken Walls: Challenges to Patriarchal Authority in the Eyes of Sudanese Social Media Actors

in Die Welt des Islams
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This article presents and discusses voices of active social media users from the urban Sudan on the social impact of internet and mobile communication, with a focus on changes in individuals’ attitudes to established patriarchal norms, in particular regarding relations between the sexes, and between young people and their parents’ generation. The picture that emerges from interviews and online sources is that of young people often impatient with the pace of change in their society, while at the same time professing that the new technologies have enabled them, in their own lives, to break established norms, to expand the realm of their private sphere, and to assert their own voice. Such sociocultural change risks going unnoticed if one focuses mainly on the political side of the Arab Spring; it may, however, be as important as regime change to the understanding of current dynamics in the Arab world.

Broken Walls: Challenges to Patriarchal Authority in the Eyes of Sudanese Social Media Actors

in Die Welt des Islams




 Manuel CastellsNetworks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age (Cambridge: Polity2012) 5-6.


 Cf. F. Gregory Gause III“Why Middle East Studies Missed the Arab Spring: The Myth of Authoritarian Stability”Foreign Affairs 90 no.4 (2011) 81-90.


 Asef BayatLife as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press2010) 14 et passim.


 mustafa mudathir“Re: Fī ’l-sahala yā Sheykh! Min al-Skype li’l-WhatsApp (Re: Ṭāhā Djaʿfar)”SudaneseOnline30 Oct. 2014 . The Just Peace Forum is a radically Islamist splinter group of the ruling National Congress Party; al-Ṭayyib Muṣṭafà is President al-Bashīr’s maternal uncle. The shaykh exposed in this scandal later claimed that the he had been the victim of a smear campaign by his ex-wife and Shīʿī circles who had manipulated private Skype pictures and passed them to the public (Muḥammad al-Musallamī “Sudanese Online tuḥāwir al-Shaykh Saʿd Aḥmad Saʿd ḥawla ṣūrat al-Skype al-mazʿūma” SudaneseOnline 3 November 2014 ).


 Kandake“Ḥayātī bi’l-ḥijāb wa-bidūnih”Sudanese Dream12 August 2014 ; Yosra Akasha “My life with & without Hijab” World Pulse 14 August 2014 ; interviews Khartoum February 2015. Yosrà ʿAkā­sha is correspondent to openDemocracy; see .


 Islam Gawish“Wa’llāhi wa-lā vīdeō wa-lā ṣūra wa-lā rasma bit’hizz illā al-ḍaʿīf al-ʿāǧiz”Facebook11 May 2016 ; Muḥammad Ḥamāma & Shādī Zalaṭ “‘Aṭfāl Shawāriʿ’: bayna khawf al-dawla min al-sukhriyya.. wa-khawfihā min al-shāriʿ” Madā Maṣr 11 May 2016 ; cf. Asef Bayat on the counter-revolution regime in Egypt: it “has to govern a citizenry that has been significantly transformed” (“Revolution and Despair” Mada Masr 25 January 2015 ). In other contexts conservative patriarchal reassertion has also been interpreted as a reaction against actually growing challenges to patriarchy. On the Iranian example cf. Riesebrodt Fundamentalismus or Valerie Moghadam who wrote that as modern developments (the internal expansion of the state including its education system and concepts of the “citizen” even if only in name; economic ‘modernisation’; increased global integration travel and media) have contributed to “undermine patriarchal attitudes and practices” the Middle East has witnessed “a cultural and political backlash in the form of conservative Islamist movements” (Moghadam Development 55).


 Kandake“Ḥājāt fatarta min samāʿhā (2),” Sudanese Dream24 February 2015 .


 Abdelbagi Dafalla“Youth and Mobiles: sms University of Khartoum, Sudan,” unpublished data referred to in Ikhlas Ahmed Nour Ibrahim, “Challenging the Silence, Secrecy and Shame: Transforming ICT’s Role in Increasing Pre-Marital Sex in Sudan,” in Women and ICT in Africa and the Middle East: Changing Selves Changing Societiesed. Ineke Buskens and Anne Webb (London: Zed2014) 249-261.


 Deniz Kandıyotı“Bargaining with Patriarchy,” Gender and Society 2 no. 3 (1988) 286. The warning that she continues with is no less valid today: “The breakdown of a particular patriarchal system may in the short run generate instances of passive resistance among women that take the paradoxical form of bids for increased responsibility and control by men.” Kandıyotı later discussed the limits of ‘bargaining’ in her article “Gender Power and Contestation” (see above footnote 17). Here I am primarily concerned with my informants’ self-conscious perceptions; Kandıyotı’s point however is well taken and the tensions between changes in individuals’ attitudes changes in actual behaviour and changes in hegemonic norms deserve further investigation in the Sudanese context.



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