Mediated Martyrs of the Arab Spring: New Media, Civil Religion, and Narrative in Tunisia and Egypt


Corresponding author: Jeffry R. Halverson; e-mail:


This article analyzes the emergence of nationalist martyr narratives and their dissemination via new media as forces for social mobilization and political change. Situating them in the religio-historical contexts of North Africa, we trace martyr narratives in Tunisia and Egypt back to pre-Islamic periods and compare them to the contemporary stories of Mohamed Bouazizi and Khaled Saeed. This reveals the impact of new media on the region, evident in “virtual reliquaries,” and the role that martyr narratives play as catalysts in social mobilization. The trajectory of the martyr narrative from the traditional religious context to the state-driven concept of civil religion allows for the political dimension of narratives resident within the religious context to surface in the contemporary discursive moment.