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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Contested Discourses on Arab Democratization in the United States and Kuwait
by Al-Sumait, Fahed Yahya, Ph.D., University of Washington, 2011, 279; 3472331
Abstract (Summary)

The international community has devoted significant attention to Arab democratization in the last decade. Public discourse on the topic rose dramatically during the George W. Bush administration and then receded in 2007 due to faltering progress in Iraq and Arab electoral outcomes unwelcomed by the U.S. and others. Following unprecedented popular uprisings in a number of Arab countries in early 2011, discourses on Arab democratization are again on the rise. However, significant conceptual gaps remain between people in the United States and the Middle East. This study applies a modified theory of the rhetorical public sphere to address such gaps by identifying conceptual differences and similarities about Arab democratization in two issue-specific environments. The first is examined through a thematic analysis of U.S. presidential rhetoric, policy debates, and news coverage from the end of the Cold War in 1991 to the U.S. midterm elections in 2010. Three distinct, but inconsistent, rhetorical eras were present which made Arab democratization appear to be an American goal as much as an internal Arab concern. The second environment included in-depth interviews with Islamists, liberals, and women's political activists in Kuwait, where a constitutional monarchy has been incrementally ceding power to one of the oldest and most autonomous of Arab parliaments. Respondents discussed three areas concerning democratization: impressions , ideas, and initiatives. Impressions of national and international debates on democratization were largely similar across the groups, having more to do with national identity than ideologies or demographics. Ideas described philosophical and normative notions of democracy based on institutional, economic, and sociocultural dimensions, providing insight into shared, flexible, and contested elements relevant to democratization debates in any Arab country. Initiatives characterized strategic political communication used to appeal to, and make contact with, various publics. Significant attention was devoted to the political role of digital media and its relationship to traditional communication mechanisms. Disciplinary, conceptual, and functional contributions of the research are discussed before concluding that notions of the public sphere and even democracy may be subject to some important reinterpretations by integrating a unique set of Arab perspectives into their rich assortment of meanings.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Domke, David S.
School: University of Washington
School Location: United States -- Washington
Source: DAI-A 72/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Communication, Middle Eastern Studies, International Relations
Keywords: Contested discourses, Democratization, Discourse, International relations, Kuwait, Middle East
Publication Number: 3472331
ISBN: 978-1-124-86153-1
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