Accepted paper:

Rethinking women's agency and digital media in the Middle East

Authors:

Elisabetta Costa (University of Groningen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper aims at re-thinking the concept of human agency to recognize the role that digital technologies play in the fulfillment of women's desires within patriarchal societies. The paper integrates two different scholarly traditions, the anthropology of the Middle East and digital anthropology.

Paper long abstract:

This paper aims at re-thinking the concept of human agency to recognize the role that digital technologies play in the fulfillment of women's desires within patriarchal societies. The paper integrates two different scholarly traditions, the anthropology of the Middle East, which has extensively elaborated on women's agency, and digital anthropology, which has instead called the agency of subjects and objects into questions. It draws from a long-term ethnographic research on uses and consequences of social media on people's everyday life in Mardin, a medium-sized town in southeast Turkey. On social media, young women have created a heterotopic space (Foucault 1967; 1984) where they can fulfill wishes and desires that cannot be realized offline. Social media have become the place where they can meet friends and start new social relationships outside the control of family and neighborhood. Interactions on online private and semi-private spaces are ruled by social norms that are different from those regulating social life offline. A research participant noted, "Facebook in Mardin is used to break down barriers!" Yet, on the other hand, enactments of desires enabled by social media are socially legitimate because are hidden or private. The paper shows that agency-structure relationship is not a zero-sum game and that the enactment of agency does not lead to social change. The paper rather aims at developing further reflections on women's agency in digitally mediated worlds.

panel P067
The digital turn: new directions in media anthropology [Media Anthropology Network]