My research falls within several areas, all of them engaging the role of digital media and information technologies in the gendered social and political relations of the Middle East. My interests include feminist and postcolonial approaches to the study of Middle East politics, critical security studies, the political economy of information, corporate consolidation of media, new labor arrangements emerging from networked communication, and the reorganization of human security regimes around the use of everyday technological devices and practices.
My current book project, titled Games, Hunters, Provocateurs: Digital Mediations of Violence, Gender and Race in the Middle East, focuses on how discourse and the properties of computational media interact together to produce gendered and racialized knowledge about women’s rights, sexual violence, and human security in the Middle East. The research areas outlined here reflect chapters in the monograph.
I am also interested in the larger problematics of transnational communication as they stretch across different geographical regions. In particular, I am interested in the technical arrangements that constitute the global South as a digital space, and how these arrangements are mutating and changing who and what is able to define the global South. Just as recent developments have expanded the focus of international relations into areas of political communication, future advances will shift the field toward a more comprehensive understanding of the multiple layers, levels and effects of communication, and paths for more equitable methods of participation. This transition will require methods engaging not only discursive analyses of communicative practices, but also theories of programmatic languages, software studies, and media ecology approaches in order to make sense of emerging global issues. This is where I locate the trajectory of my research.
(thumbnail image: bidoun.org)
The use of apps as a technique of human security intervention
This chapter examines the use of spatial information technologies and crowdmapping applications for addressing issues of sexual harassment and violence in the Egypt, and the political implications of the increasing use of crowdsourced mapping as a technique of global human security governance. In particular, I am interested in the depoliticizing effects of software and apps that claim to democratize information through crowdsourcing, and how the transparency afforded by applications like Google Maps impacts the spatial politics of violence in the streets.
Gaming as a social and political medium
This chapter considers the growing subculture of women gamers in Saudi Arabia, and how their embodied experiences of gameplay present opportunities to transgress gender-based constraints on movement, communication, and access on and offline, while simultaneously disrupting liberal notions of public visibility and gendered agency. Here I am interested in how technological interventions in/on the body destabilize existing gender norms and representations of sexual difference as gaming interfaces mediate new moves into visibility that exceed Euro- and American-centric preoccupations with the veil and questions of rights. This well-organized and transnationally linked group of players and developers utilizes alternative discourses of creativity and piety to create relations of accountability for women including access to public space and opportunities for employment in predominantly male-dominated industries.
The algorithmic management of gendered political communication on social media
This chapter presents a horizontal reading of Aliaa Elmahdy’s and Amina Sboui’s corporeal interventions alongside the efficacy of digital platforms in order to consider how algorithmic and normative protocols related to content filtering on social media amplify certain forms of political communication while prohibiting others. I argue that readings of Elmahdy’s and Sboui’s bodily politics through the lens of liberal feminism rely on what I call discourses of mimetic networking, where particular mediated events become reterritorialized as part of an archival knowledge of ‘Arabness’. This is done through the organization of data via hashtagging and content moderation, and through rhetorics of techno-optimism that mirror ‘first contact’ narratives which gender, racialize, and flatten complex and fluid engagements with new media in non-US/European contexts. The chapter concludes with a consideration of how the persistence of their corporeality relays with both normative and programmatic parameters online to make alternative visions of political communication possible.
The 'selfie' and new visual cultures of sexual nationalism under Occupation
In this chapter I consider how image-based social networks such as Instagram and Snapchat are changing the way the female body is made visible during times of war. I am interested in how the selfie has been used to organize women’s bodies within the rhetorical context of racist military violence around the #ZionStandUp hashtag and the military siege on Gaza in Summer 2014. While many framed these images within narratives of extreme narcissism and moral ineptitude, my reading explores the selfie as a genre within the larger context of the historical sublimation of sexual desire in the service of racial nationalism, and as a form of digital and reproductive labor performed by women’s bodies in the context of Occupation.