JouRnal of Middle eaSt WoMen’S StudieS
As a member o AWSA United, I was intrigued by the phenomenon,noted by Alia Malek, that the group has permitted a cadre o highly educated and motivated women to nd their own voices. Malek (2004)claims that “A vibrant Arab-American eminist movement is emergingin the US,” and that Arab-American women have ound their own space“outside both the mainstream eminist movement and mainstream Arab-American organizations, because neither has been responsive to theirneeds.” But what has AWSA United provided or this ideologically andpolitically marginalized group o women activists? My ndings suggestthat Arab women use AWSA United to oster their collective identity,strengthen their connectivity, and increase their activism.In light o my analysis o printed and electronic archival documents,and based on responses I collected in an online survey, I examine in thispaper the construction o collective identity, connectivity, and activismusing the case o AWSA United. I rst explore theoretical perspectives oncyberactivism and cybereminism within the social movement literature.I then provide a historical overview o the development o AWSA romits birthplace in Egypt in 1982 through its migration to cyberspace in1999. I then discuss the sociocultural obstacles that Arab women activistshave had to overcome in both the diaspora and the Arab world. Finally, Iinvestigate how Arab women activists use AWSA United to participate incollective action, solidiy their individual and collective activist identities,and establish relations with each other.
cybeRactiviSM and cybeRfeMiniSM
Social movement scholars emphasize the signicance o social con-texts and physical space in the construction o collective identity. Tey generally agree that the collectivization o identity is an essential parto activism (Laraña, Johnston, and Guseld 1994, Polletta and Jasper2001). Collective identity emerges among participants who share similarcultural characteristics (Gamson 1992, Platt and Fraser 1998). Yet, mostimportantly, it is constructed within an appropriate, ree, and sae space(Evans and Boyte 1992, Polletta 1999). As this study shows, individualscannot always take action within their social structures; at other timesthe identities and relations they encode cannot possibly be embedded intheir social rameworks.