The Afterlives of Violent Images

Reading Photographs from the Tal al-Zaʿtar Refugee Camp on Facebook

in Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication
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This article examines the posting of photographs on two Facebook groups created by survivors of the 1976 fall of the Tal al-Zaʾtar refugee camp and their descendants. What happens to photographs as they circulate through these particular social media groups, and what relations do people (including photographed subjects who appear in images of atrocity and trauma) create with such images as they circulate in new ways? How are they mobilized through social media to create and sustain collective memory? I argue that by addressing the yearning to discover, document and sustain networks of affiliation and association on one hand and a shared geography, lost in 1976 and virtually reconstructed through members’ activities on the sites on the other, group members appeal in complex ways to both indexical and iconic qualities of photographs, thereby allowing for the creative engagement with a collective past for the needs of community members in the present.

The Afterlives of Violent Images

Reading Photographs from the Tal al-Zaʿtar Refugee Camp on Facebook

in Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication

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    Figure 1

    Poster commemorating the Tal al-Zaʿtar siege, circa 1976. Digitized, circulated on Rabita on 24 August 2013. The Arabic on the poster reads: ‘Tal al-Zaʿtar: May continued struggle be our determination. May defiance be our bulwark. May resistance be the reality of our people’. Accessed 26 May 2014.

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    Figure 2

    Martyr’s faces collaged onto a digitized photograph of the destroyed camp posted on Mukhayyam al-Sumud on 8 February 2014. Accessed 25 June 2014.

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    Figure 3

    Unknown photographer. A photograph from the late 1970s of a commemorative military march in Damour, Lebanon in which survivors carry photographs of their martyrs. Posted on Mukhayyam al-Sumud on 2 January 2014. Accessed 25 June 2014.

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    Figure 4

    Ali Salman’s 1982 photograph of Umm Husayn as it appears on the billboard at the site of the Sabra and Shatila mass grave Photo: Eva Bartlett, ingaza.worldpress.com. Accessed 25 June 2014.

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    Figure 5

    Participants in the 2012 march commemorating the 30th anniversary of the massacre of Sabra and Shatila photograph Umm Husayn holding photographs of her dead family members Photo credit: Nadia Yaqub

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    Figure 6

    Unknown photographer. Photograph of the camp posted on Rabita on 14 November 2013. Accessed 25 June 2014.

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    Figure 7

    Unknown photographer. Photograph of the camp posted on Rabita on 17 November 2013. Accessed 25 June 2014.

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    Figs 8, 9

    Photographs of the former site of the Tal al-Zaʿtar camp taken by a member of Mukhayyam during a 2011 visit. Posted on Mukhayyam on 9 October 2012. Accessed 26 May 2014.

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