Informal Networking and Social Activism

Social Movement Theory, or SMT is a topic relatively new to the social sciences realm and more specifically so to Islamic Social Movements. Joel Beinin and Fréderic Valrel introduce their study to familiarize the research community to new backgrounds for examining Islamic social movements within North Africa and the Middle East. One of the most interesting aspects of this article was the information highlighting the importance for these social movement groups to have the ability to network in order to mobilize movements. The method of “informal networking” is discussed as an approach common to most cases of social movement; for example, Japan’s environmental protest movement can be viewed as form of mobilized social movement, though “the final necessary ingredient was a protest leader from within the community who enjoyed high status there” (Beinin – Valrel, 12). This poses the interesting question of whether movements without a type of guide or leader figure could reach success in achieving their social goals, and whether informal networking (whether through social media or personal interaction) can lead to discovery of such a leader. Within Joe Stork’s article on human rights activism in the Middle East and North Africa, a similar statement on the importance of networking for social movement mobility is made, especially within the case of Bahraini rights activism. Two students, Shukrallah and Ibrahim founded the Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) to begin networking to aid others to see “how democracy and human rights was essential for human emancipation” (Stork, 113). The government never recognized the organization founded by the two students which almost lead to its disbanding, however the informal networking within the organization can be viewed as the method by which the organization continued to function until August 1989 when workers occupied a steel company which lead to opportunity for EOHR to be finally recognized. Overall I find the topic of informal networking such as communication through social media outlets very interesting, because of the effects it can have on the larger community, especially in informing them on social injustice.

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