Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Revolutionary cultural production during and following the Bahrain Uprising has been characterized by the digitized presentation and detournement of state tools of oppression, from turning spent tear gas canisters fired at activists into thrones, to the satirization of public figures themselves via multiple social media platforms. The Baharna, Bahrain’s indigenous population, have used revolutionary cultural production both and online and offline to separate themselves from the essentializing discourses of sectarianism that try to portray and reduce their struggle to a geopolitical cold war between Iran and Saudi. Much of this cultural content, which relied on new platforms to bypass the censored traditional media, was dedicated to resisting the state propaganda and PR that attempted to delegitimize and Bahrain’s opposition. For its part, the Al Khalifa regime had mobilized various cultural industries to reproduce reductionist narratives that aimed to demonize the opposition as a fifth column attempting to spread Iranian hegemony in the Gulf. The reality is that long standing demands for representation among the indigenous baharna community have been violently resisted by a settler-colonial regime. By analysing in detail the YouTube serial Baharna Drama, which emerged as a response to the Uprising, this paper examines the utility of social media as a heterotopia. Specifically, it argues how the Baharna community resisted the state’s homogenising discourses by using social media to reassert agency over their own identity - itself erased by the official cultural apparatus of the Al Khalifa’s settler-colonial regime.