The Challenge of Ethnography of good-Guys in Battlefields
I doubt there would be many who could say those Iraqi militants who left their lives behind to volunteer for fighting ISIS are not the ‘good-guys’ regardless of regiments, flags and insignias which they are associated with. However, I found ethnography of Iraqi Shi’i militans who fight ISIS to be one of my most challenging ethnographic experiences since I began my carrier in combat-zone ethnography. I trace the pleasures of violence among Shi’i militants who are fighting against ISIS both in Syria and Iraq. The pleasures of violence is specially followed both through modes of combat and by way of photographs that are taken and circulated among the combatants via social media and in multimedia messaging mobile application. I follow how combat narratives and religious discourses such as martyrdom, suffering, victimhood and other- making are framed into the images and how they are consumed and received. I investigate these images during my research to show how pleasures of violence are veiled behind the frame of pain and martyrdom. The veiled pleasures that blur the borders victims and perpetrators then they challenged me to reflect on good-guys versus bad-guys division.
I follow the user-generated photographs, their circulations and discussions around them in Iraq to explore the notions of perpetrator in a broader context. This is to stress how the biography of the combat photographs and the frenzy of visual records produced during and after each military operations encourage us to step back and wonder about the simultaneity of victim-performances and being-perpetrators. It is noteworthy, I don’t place this simultaneity in debates of revenge and historical trajectory of the war but rather I cease each act, every image and story in a true Deleuzian fashion to say how it happened when it happened through ethnography of combat zones and conversations with the militants.