Society for Medical Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
This paper explores visible practices of care online, in response to a white supremacist terrorist attack at two Christchurch mosques in March 2019, during which fifty people were killed. New Zealand’s official response to the attack was commended worldwide. The public also offered intense performances of collective grief: with flowers and hearts piling up outside mosques, and tens of thousands attending vigils. Yet much of the public experience of, and response to the event was digitally mediated: from exposure to the terrorists’ livestream of the shootings, to a proliferation of profile frames, emotive images, and message of love directed at ‘imagined communities’ of Muslims throughout the country. From the intimate space of their own devices over 100,000 people donated money to crowdfunding campaigns for the victims’ families.
This paper presents analysis of the discourse surrounding these highly successful crowdfunding campaigns. It also draws from a series of ethnographic interviews with young (Muslim and Non-Muslim) New Zealanders, about their experiences of engaging with digital media in the wake of the attack.
Publics are a ‘relation among strangers’, and affective states are central to their constitution (Warner 2002 in Gibson 2018; Ahmed 2004). The mobilisation of affect in digital space can form, reform, or reinforce different layers of national, regional, religious, and racial identity and belonging. Considering widespread ‘they are us’ rhetoric, I unpack the creation of new, digitally mediated public intimacies, mapping the politics of grief, solidarity, care and activism, in the wake of a shocking event in a small nation.