Assessing Twitter’s Revolutionary Potential in an Authoritarian Regime: The Case of the #ZimbabweanLivesMatter

Danford Zirugo, Admire Mare

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Taking a Gramscian discursive approach, combined with Machin and Mayr’s critical discourse analysis approach, this chapter analyses how Twitter can empower ordinary people with access to the internet to push for a progressive cultural shift while at the same time disempowering them. Departing from the popular view that social media are not effective tools for challenging authoritarian regimes, the chapter argues that the potential of Twitter should not be solely judged based on its assumed power to enable the immediate removal of an authoritarian regime, but instead in facilitating long-term cultural shifts and awareness raising that can eventually lead to desired political change. Using #ZimbabweLivesMatter, as a reference point, the chapter argues that the efficacy of Twitter must also be assessed by foregrounding the incremental shifts in political awareness and discussions rather than simply overhyping its assumed revolutionary effects. The chapter achieves this by acknowledging significant and structural challenges that confront social media activism, but also foregrounding inherent rhetorical weaknesses that come with it which also act as a drawback to significant cultural shifts. This chapter also sheds light on the role of “digital public intellectuals” or political influencers in mobilizing citizens around issue-based causes.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDigital Technologies, Elections and Campaigns in Africa
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781003800163
ISBN (Print)9781032551166
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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