Discursive Participation and Group Polarization on Facebook: The Curious Case of Pakistan’s Nationalism and Identity

Fatima Zahid Ali, Sergio Sparviero, Jo Pierson


This article examines how online discussions negotiate radicalism or pluralism in the context of national identities, where nationalism and religiosity often overlap. Grounded in three schools of thoughts (i.e., the Islamist, the pluralist, and the nation-statist), this article employs multimodal discourse analyses on 210 posts to gauge discursive practices in these online spaces. Using Muslim-majority states like Pakistan as a case study, this article finds that the three schools of thought draw on complex, multilayered, and nuanced themes to arbitrate notions of “Pakistaniness,” especially the more conservative or far-right Islamic spheres. As empirical evidence suggests, nationalist expressions emerge through the performance of collective culture, visual symbols, military fetishism, gendered construction of nationhood, and hypernationalism. By exploring the digital practices and discourses in three Facebook communities, this article confirms the presence of the echo chamber phenomenon in Pakistani social media with great potential toward group polarization for more conservative strata of society. Last, we find that a Muslim identity remains the most important marker of being a Pakistani, whereas radicalization has drawn legitimacy from anti-India rhetoric.


online communities, discourse, nationalism, polarization, radicalism, Pakistan, echo chamber

Full Text: