Fractured lives, digital selves: Iraqi women’s warblogs and the wilderness of cyberspace

2017-03-22T01:28:13Z (GMT) by Campbell, Perri
The Iraq war blogosphere is a place of loose ends, fragments and moments in time. It is a space shaped by conversations, contradiction, opinions and life stories. Time is compressed by archive functions and selves are fractured by dates and posts. As I pull various threads together figures appear on the horizon, shaping the wilderness of this digital landscape. Here I encounter young sisters HNK and Aunt Najma, Neurotic Iraqi Wife, Riverbend and Faiza. In this space I am not analysing a text. It is not just a story. I am delving into a history of thoughts, reflections, and memories where the troublesome past meets the possible future. A ‘sense’ or part of who these women are lies in these fragments, in my practice of reading their blogs, and of lurking in the Iraq war blogosphere. This thesis provides a critique of what it means to be a woman – to be a mother, a worker, a sister, a University student – in post-invasion Iraq, and a critique of what it means for me – a white, Australian woman – to speak about Iraqi women’s experiences. I draw upon Foucault’s late ‘ethical’ work to argue that weblogs provide a real-time, unfolding, reflexive, and often inter-active window into particular life-worlds and into selves that shift and move and exist in tension between a variety of digital and non digital spaces. I engage with five particular Iraqi women who shape a digital-self in the wilderness of cyberspace. I explore the tensions between the various ways women practice a self in/between different fields of possibility in Iraq, such as the workplace, marketplace, school, or home (Foucault, 1997a: 291). I encounter these practices of the self as stories of choice, of decisions made amidst a sea of possibilities, encouragements, and right decisions (Foucault, 1982: 212). The ways in which HNK, Neurotic Iraqi Wife, Aunt Najma, Riverbend and Faiza, practice freedom and negotiate power across digital and non-digital fields, shapes the very fields the bloggers engage with. In a time of war, chaos and often deadly uncertainties digital-selves speak to the malleable limits and possibilities of discursive fields. These women enable us to see the local, embodied repercussions of a global struggle, the sites where encouragement and coercion meet, and where choice and practice converge.