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The intimate territoriality of digital activism: mourning and loss in the affective practices of Iranian #justice-seeking mothers

An online seminar hosted by The University of Western Australia. Part of the CHE Virtual Fellows Seminar Series


Image: Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

Date: Tuesday 25 October 2022. Please note this is a rescheduled date.
Time: 5:00pm AWST / 8:00pm AEDT
Venue: Online via Zoom. Please email emotions@uwa.edu.au for connection details. 
Enquiries: emotions@uwa.edu.au

In this paper, I focus on the digital activism of Iranian #justice-seeking mothers, conceiving this women’s network as a digital intimate public, in which the political is engaged through a language of personal and familiar attachment (Berlant 1998, 2008). I trace the ways in which these women sustain a solidaristic mode of intimacy through collectively narrating the loss of their children at the hands of the Iranian state. In doing so, I argue, the mothers’ network utilises the affective resources of melancholia, staging their ‘absolute refusal to relinquish the other’ (Eng and Han 2003) via the digital affordances of Instagram and Twitter, in order to expand the space of political appearance at both national and transnational levels (Azoulay 2008, Arendt 1998). They do this, I argue, through hybrid visual and textual practices of public intimacy, disseminating and archiving in-person gatherings at their children’s graves, as well as memorialising the dead in the erstwhile private spaces of each other’s homes. In stressing both the simultaneously local and transnational dimensions of these women’s activism, which innovatively reshapes cultural tropes around motherhood, family and mourning, and the simultaneously place-specific and transnationally mediated dimensions of these women’s activism, I seek to move beyond approaches that frame digital mourning activism either as modes of de-territorialization that ‘escape’ global South contexts; or as culturally exotic practices that are bound to non-Western locales. I conclude by reflecting on what light this research can shed on the broader study of women’s intimate digital activism across local and transnational contexts in the global South.


Associate Prof Jane Haggis (Flinders University)


Sara Tafakori is a lecturer in media and communication at the University of Leeds, UK.  Her research interests include feminist, media and cultural studies, postcolonial and critical race theory, and emotion and affect theory, with a focus on mediations of (in)justice and human rights. Sara comes from a professional journalism background and worked for print media and press associations in Iran prior to a career in academia. Her recent publications, which focus on activism, digital feminism and postcolonial solidarities, have appeared in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Feminist Media Studies and Jadaliyya, amongst others. Her article for Signs received the 2021 Catharine Stimpson Prize for Outstanding Feminist Scholarship Outstanding Feminist ScholarshipShe is currently working on intimacy and melancholia as activist resources.