Weblogistan goes to war: Representational practices, gendered soldiers and neoliberal entrepreneurship in diaspora

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Abstract

In this article, which is based on twenty four months of combined online and off-line ethnographic research, I show the way that some Iranian diasporic bloggers use their weblogs as entrepreneurship resources during the war on terror. Through a discourse analysis of a documentary film about Weblogistan and interviews with diasporic Iranian bloggers in Toronto, I argue that Weblogistan is implicated in discourses of militarism and neoliberalism that interpellate the representable Iranian blogger as a gendered neoliberal homo oeconomicus. The production of knowledge about Iran in transnational encounters between the media, think tanks, policy institutions and the Iranian diasporic self-entrepreneurs, relies on gendered civilizational discourses that are inherently tied to the war on terror. Following feminist scholars who have theorized militarism and gender, I argue that dominant representations of Weblogistan produce different gendered subject positions for Iranian bloggers. Although the masculine blogger soldier takes freedom to Iran through his active participation in proper politics (enabled by his freedom of speech in North America and Europe), the woman blogger finds freedom of expression in writing about sex and telling the truth of her sex in a confessional mode. It is in this war of representation that women bloggers negotiate their subjectivity while shuttling in and out of local and global politics, as subjects of politics (markers of freedom and oppression) and political abjects (not worthy of political participation).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6-24
Number of pages19
JournalFeminist Review
Volume99
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Within the context of the ‘war on terror’, blogging for several Iranian bloggers in the diaspora has been a source of income in direct and indirect ways. For example, Hooshang’s popularity in Weblogistan, and his connections with other Iranians who had left Iran during Khatami’s presidency, helped him with employment opportunities. He started working in low-rank jobs on arriving in Toronto, a phase of his life that he bitterly jokes about as the ‘Canadian experience’. However, he has since moved up financially as a result of his employment with several different organizations that in one way or another are concerned with Iranian politics. He joined a group of diasporic Iranians that included a former journalist, a former Iranian president’s consultant, a former employee of the ministry of guidance and a senior fellow for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington DC (who was the former founder of the Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran) to propose a satellite television network in Persian. The group asked the European Union (EU) for funding and received a grant of fifteen million Euros from the Dutch government. As launching a television network involved a lot of work, the proposed project, which according to Hooshang got 150 votes and no opposition from the House of Representatives of the Netherlands, culminated in a website (Interview, 27 February 2006).

Funding Information:
I am indebted to Iranian bloggers and friends in Weblogistan who opened their online and off-line homes to me during my fieldwork. This essay is based on a chapter of my PhD dissertation, the funding for which was provided by the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University, the Mellon Foundation, the Stanford Humanities Center, and the Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences Graduate Research Opportunity Grants. I am grateful to Nadje Al-Ali, Lizzie Thynne and anonymous reviewers for their valuable feedback. My special thanks to my dissertation committee members, Minoo Moallem, Miyako Inoue, Hamid Dabshi and James Ferguson for their insightful comments, and to Shay Brawn, for her careful reading and helpful suggestions. All omissions and errors are my sole responsibility.

Keywords

  • cybergovernmentality
  • gender
  • militarism
  • neoliberalism
  • new media
  • representation

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