GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
The New Yemen(s): (Re-)Imagining National Identity, Geography and State on Facebook (2011-2016)
Paper Proposal Text :
In the context of the so-called „Arab Spring“, Yemen witnessed a ten-months popular uprising against the Saleh regime. On November 23, 2011, then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh resigned. With his signature on the Gulf Cooperation Council agreement, a formal transition period was initiated. In this time, it was particularly Facebook that served as a platform for discussion and deliberation. Although youth activists, journalists, women’s rights activists and others played only a marginal role in the formal transition process, they continued to discuss politics and shared their visions of what the „New Yemen“ they were aspiring to should look like. Beyond that, they frequently commented on political events, such as the military restructuring or the National Dialogue Conference.

Five years after the onset of the popular protests and in the context of the current civil war and foreign military intervention, completely contrasting conceptions of the Yemeni state and nation are clashing. While protesters of various social and ideological backgrounds appeared to be presenting a unified front against the Saleh regime in the initial phases of the 2011 protests, in the course of the transition period differences increased.

This is also reflected in the language used in Facebook posts, with many terms, such as „army“, „popular committee“ „militia“ or „government“ being strongly contested. At the same time, certain stereotypes, such as southerners describing northerners as “uncivilized” or as “dahabsha” (a derogatory term describing northerners), in addition to sectarian terms, such as “zaydi” or “rafidun” contribute to how Yemen is (re-)imagined.

This use of language reveals much about the identities of the activists and their imaginations of Yemen in terms of national identity, geography and state legitimacy. While some are imagining an independent south, others see a unified Yemen legitimately ruled by Houthis. Others may even imagine Yemen to include regions which today are formally part of Saudi Arabia. These imaginations are reflected in the language youth used in Facebook posts.

In this paper, I therefore ask the imaginations of Yemen in terms of national identity, geography and state legitimacy are represented in Facebook posts.