Panel 9

“Digital Practices”

(All informations below are from the website of the Scuola Normale Superiore)

Date and time: Friday 2nd December 2022 | 15.00 – 16.30 PM

Room: Altana Hall

1.) Discussant: Donatella Della Ratta – Associate Professor of Communications and Media Studies – John Cabot University

2.) “Hope, Despair, and Nostalgia in Post-Revolutionary Media in Egypt”

Yasmeen Mekawy – Northwestern University in Qata

This paper analyzes the affective dynamics of post-revolutionary representations of the 2011 Egyptian uprising in music videos, television series, novels, social media, and film. I examine depictions that center on the utopian moments of collective joy of protest, as well as more somber portrayals that challenge a romanticized view of resistance by dwelling on the defeat, despair, and devastating repercussions of the uprising. I argue that while such media can evoke both hope and hopelessness, both kinds of representations counter the state’s erasure of the revolution in public space as well as its resignification of the uprising as a criminal conspiracy in pro-regime media. However, nostalgic depictions also contribute to the construction of the revolution as an object or scene of what Lauren Berlant calls “cruel optimism,” in which the loss of the object is unbearable because the attachment is itself bound up with “the subject’s sense of what it means to keep on living on and to look forward to being in the world.” The nostalgia evoked in pro-revolutionary media thus has an ambivalent political effect: on the one hand, it relegates to the revolution to the past, a moment in history that has passed and cannot be recovered. Nonetheless, despite the current repressive climate, the enduring attachment to and representation of the revolution as an authentic moment of national unity and self-determination preserves the collective memory of the revolution as a possible future basis for resistance. This paper draws on interpretive analysis of media texts as well as interviews conducted with participants of the revolution in its aftermath.

3.) “Arab protests and archiving processes: the case of 858 An Archive of Resistance.”

Alessandra Fredianelli – Università degli Studi di Genova

This paper considers the protests started in 2010 in several countries in North Africa and Middle East, which were among the first global movements to make extensive use of digital technologies. Images played a central role in this context, indeed videos and photographs taken by protesters initially contributed to the spread of the uprisings, while in the following periods were used for different purposes, including witnessing the abuses of governments and law enforcement and preserving the memory of the revolution from the perspective of the protesters. This second phase saw the rising of digital archives, created by local groups of activists and artists, which gather the visual materials produced by protesters, e.g.: 858 An Archive of Resistance;; Creative Memory of the Syrian Revolution; Syrian Archive; Vox Populi. This paper focuses on 858 An Archive of Resistance as a case study, a digital archive founded in 2018 by the collective of artists and activists Mosireen, which collects videos and photographs taken by protesters during the Egyptian revolution started in 2011.

The study will concern both the process of making the archive and the visual legacy of the materials it collects. Both elements highlight the central role of it as a source for the analysis of protests from the perspective of the activists. Furthermore, a comparison between 858 An Archive of Resistance and the archives mentioned above will point out the common needs from which they arose. The aim of this article is to reflect on two main issues: the possibilities of preserving the memory of Arab protests through a questioning of the archive as an institution, and the reading of the archiving practices as acts of resistance to official narratives about the uprisings.

4.) “Unpacking the transnational dimension of anti-regime movements: The case of Hirak from the local to the global.”

Ester Sigillò – University of Bologna

Alice Mattoni – University of Bologna

Drawing on the case of the Hirak movement born in Algeria in 2019, this paper casts light on the mechanisms of transformation of the anti-regime movement at the transnational level. Based on a qualitative case-study research design, the paper address the Hirak movement from the perspective of its participants, exploring it through in-depth interviews with activists, online participant observation of movements’ meetings, and documents produced by movement organizations involved in the protests. More specifically, the paper unpacks the transformative dynamics of the movement when it bypasses its context of origins regarding three main dimensions, all supported through a wide range of digital media: framing processes, organizational patterns, and repertoire of contention.

Then, the article looks at the effects of such changes against a background of high political conflict and harsh repression. Findings show that digital media supporting transnational activism have four main effects and an impact on how activists sustain their mobilizations over time, both transnationally and domestically. First, they mix up the sociopolitical cleavages of the country of origin by facilitating the hybridization of repertoires of contention at a global level. Second, they contribute to politicizing specific issues by escalating the levels of contention in the country of origins, as it happens with the issue of political corruption. Third, they foster communication with other diasporic groups and, as such, they favor transversal solidarities among activists situated in different countries across the world. Fourth, they allow new measures of regime’s transnational digital surveillance, hence putting activists at risk of repression also beyond the domestic level of contention.Conclusions reflects further on how these four effects have, in turn, an impact on activists’ participation in the movement both at the transnational and domestic level to unveil the linkages between the meso- and micro-level of contention in the Hirak movement.



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