Blog post

Don't believe the hype: Al Jazeera's Tarak Barkawi denounces the role of technology and the westernization of 'revolution'

Morgan Buck26 March 2011

Writing for Al Jazeera on Monday, scholar Tarak Barkawi provided a dose of reality to an arrogant West, shedding light on  the role of globalization and technology in insighting and spreading global revolutions:

To listen to the hype about social networking websites and the Egyptian revolution, one would think it was Silicon Valley and not the Egyptian people who overthrew Mubarak.

Via its technologies, the West imagines itself to have been the real agent in the uprising. Since the internet developed out of a US Defense Department research project, it could be said the Pentagon did it, along with Egyptian youth imitating wired hipsters from London and Los Angeles.

Most narratives of globalisation are fantastically Eurocentric, stories of Western white men burdened with responsibility for interconnecting the world, by colonising it, providing it with economic theories and finance, and inventing communications technologies. Of course globalisation is about flows of people as well, about diasporas and cultural fusion.

But neither version is particularly useful for organising resistance to the local dictatorship. In any case, the internet was turned off at decisive moments in the Egyptian uprising, and it was ordinary Egyptians, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, who toppled the regime, not the hybrid youth of the global professional classes.

Tarak Barkawi is a senior lecturer in War Studies at the Centre of International Studies in the University of Cambridge. Visit Al Jazeera to read the article in full.