Association for Queer Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
In documentary filmmaking poor children of the global south are invited to perform their own vulnerability (Rangan 2017) within limited Western conceptions of child "innocence". Films about poor displaced children traverse international festivals, haunting anxious Western audiences before circling back to impact the neighborhoods from which these representations were crafted. Based on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in the Baharestan neighborhood of Tehran, Iran --a site of extensive film production about youth precarity--this presentation explores the contemporary potentialities of collaborative methods, focusing on a youth media-making program collaboratively designed and delivered in Tehran. High profile representations of displacement in film and in the field of migration studies gravitate towards spectacles of refugee flight and arrival in ways that re/produce Western anxieties of refugee global south-to-north movement. By contrast, youth collaborative representations revolve around deep emotional attachments to people and places that have been vilified and dismissed by films that seek to “save” innocent youth. Youth narrate the non-spectacular, the mundane daily experiences that characterizes protracted displacement in the global South, complicating universalist western fantasies of “childhood” and of displacement. This paper explores the potentialities for decolonizing fantastic representations of childhood by drawing upon alternative historiographies that offer fuller, multi-dimensional insights into youth relationships and experiences of place.
*This collaborative program was co-designed and delivered with community partners at Shahrzad Digital Storytelling Institute and with Kusha (Resist!) NGO for Working and Street Children in Tehran.