What has happened to Arabs? Identity and face management online

Najma Al Zidjaly*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, I draw on contemporary theorizing on the concept of face (e.g., Ting-Toomey 1994, 2004; Tracy 2008) and research on Islamic and Arabic cultures and linguistic strategies (e.g., Beeman 1986; Hegland 1998; Wilce 2005; Al Zidjaly 2006) to explore the role that the Internet plays in enabling Muslim Arabs to manage or save their collective face online. I do so by examining the responses that Muslim Arabs from various nationalities and backgrounds post to the website of Al Jazeera, the noted Arabian political news agency, with regard to articles that attack their identity as Muslims. I identify three strategies that enable Muslim Arabs who post to the Al Jazeera website to productively engage in discussion and save collective face 2 self-praise, West-attack, and self-attack. In this study, I focus on the most widely-used strategy 2 self attack and demonstrate how self-attack is best understood as a form of 'reasonable hostility' (Tracy 2008) in this particular online discussion forum because it saves collective face in a culturally 2 and contextually 2 appropriate way. The paper contributes toward developing a grounded practical theory of face (Craig 1989; Craig & Tracy 1995, 2008), to conceptualizing facework online as identity work, and to investigating identity construction at the group level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-439
Number of pages27
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2012


  • Al Jazeera
  • Facework
  • Identity
  • Internet
  • Muslim Arabs
  • Self-attack

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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