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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Wandering the streets of "Baghdad" : space, representation, and the colonial present Attewell, Wesley


In this thesis, I will explore the triangular relationship between space, representational practices, and the colonial present. I will grapple with a few key research questions: how do we, as Westerners, represent the “other”? How, in turn, do we represent “ourselves”? How have these representational practices shaped the conduct of the War on Terror? And finally, how are (neo)colonial struggles over the politics of representation intricately bound up with questions of geography? By focusing my attention upon the recent invasion, and subsequent occupation of Iraq, I hope to offer a historico-geographically responsible, as well as anti-essentialist, reading of three distinct “digital spaces”: two blogs (Riverbend’s Baghdad Burning and Colby Buzzell’s My War: Killing Time in Iraq) and Multi-National Force Iraq’s YouTube channel. Here, I will argue that, to paraphrase Edward Said, broader geographical struggles, over forms, over images, and over imaginings are not only being dispersed around the globe, they are also being fractured and subsequently contested on a more micro-scale in these new digital battlegrounds. As I hope to demonstrate over the course of this thesis, social media websites such as blogs and YouTube must conceptualized not only as political, but also as antipolitical spaces, in that they both encourage and stifle critical debate on issues pertaining to late modern warfare. Furthermore, the discursive dimensions of geographical struggle must be brought into (vexed) relation with its material dimensions (i.e., armies moving across space), and it is the mutually constitutive nature of this relationship that I will emphasize in this thesis: in other words, the conduct of late modern warfare is not only influenced by, but also influences, the deployment of representational practices. Ultimately, I argue that the increasing importance of the so-called “social media” (i.e., blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) as digital spaces of (anti?)politics enables us, as critical human geographers, to produce a genuinely human geography, and to think about space, the body, and representational practices in very different ways.

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