ISSN: 1550-7521

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Framing Messages of Democracy through Social Media: Public Diplomacy 2.0, Gender, and the Middle East and North Africa

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This study examines how U.S. public diplomacy directed toward the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and public diplomacy from the MENA to other regions, including the U.S., uses social media. It analyzes how messages regarding recent events in the MENA are constructed for Western audiences, how public diplomacy rises from this construction, and the resulting the benefits and challenges within intercultural communication practice. Utilizing a framework for social media flow the processes of gatekeeping are examined, from both state and non-state actors representing MENA voices, and western actors who receive those voices, to illustrate public diplomacy from the MENA is a “glocal” construct of the traditions of both of those localities. To investigate social media flow we draw upon extensive field research in Tunisia and engage in discourse analysis to analyze online spaces created specifically for political engagement and agency, and for challenging hegemonic norms and political oppressions. The study highlights considerations such as women’s contributions to the recent MENA events as well as discourses concerning MENA women’s ‘advancement’, to illuminate the need for a culture-centric public diplomacy that moves beyond the essentializing tendencies of western discourses.

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