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Digital Media and the Body

Sat, May 26, 9:30 to 10:45, Hilton Prague, L, Barcelona

Session Submission Type: Panel

Abstract

This panel places the body at the heart of theorisations on digital media. While the relationship between body and the digital already informs at least two influential research programmes, on the posthuman and on the biopolitical, we demonstrate the value of think this relationship beyond existing approaches. On the one hand, the posthuman introduces a view of the body and technology as mutually constitutive ontologies of the social that blur the boundaries between the two, inaugurating new, non-anthropocentric imaginations of the social world but also reflecting on new data-based visions of identity and action in the world. On the other hand, the biopolitical focuses on the relationship between the body and power, understood as material and discursive technological assemblages (bodies, rationalities, practices, instruments) that both enact normative performativities of the self and enable the large-scale governance of populations. While both perspectives open up rich research agendas on the junction between virtual and embodied materialities, they tend to privilege technological virtuality over embodied practice and impersonal control over reflexive agency.
Our panel departs from such master-frameworks and introduces four distinct but over-
lapping proposals for studying the micro-practices of the body and digital media interface. While two of those speak of the ways the body emerges at the intersection of technology and its meaning–endowing capacities (Kraidy’s metonymy and rhetorical style in ISIS war machine; Frosh’ online naming), the next two speak of the ways digital media enact and represent certain styles of embodiment (Anden-Papadopoulos’ amateur footage and Chouliaraki’s selfies).
Focusing on ISIS’ propaganda as a war machine, Kraidy introduces fire as a figure of both elemental media and communicative connectivity and explores how various fire-body configurations (projectilic, metonymic, stylistic) define the bodies of self and other in ISIS’ global imaginary. The formation of selves is also central to Frosh, but he investigates tagging as a digital affordance of identification, which works through naming to mundanely establish our corporeal ‘being in the world’. Turning to embodied practices of recording, the papers by Anden-Papadopoulos and Chouliaraki investigate the testimonial work of the camera in zones of violence and conflict. Anden- Papadopoulos looks into the role of mobile footage in constituting embodied subjectivities of martyrdom and resistance against injustice while Chouliaraki approaches the selfie as both face and flow, showing how refugee bodies are flesh testimonies of struggle not only for media visibility but also for survival at the outer borders of Europe.

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