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Centre for Persian and Iranian Studies: Visiting Speaker: Dr Shireen Walton (Goldsmiths London )

Ethnography across borders: tracing digital-visual threads between Afghanistan, Iran, Italy and the UK.

Event details

This is an in person event so please register your intrest with Maziyar Ghiabi:

Ethnography across borders: tracing digital-visual threads between Afghanistan, Iran, Italy and the UK.

Shireen Walton
Department of Anthropology,
Goldsmiths, University of London


In this talk I aim to trace analytical threads between two transnational ethnographic research projects based in / connecting with Afghanistan, Iran, Italy and the UK. Looking at photography, social media, and smartphones, I will discuss multimodal practices of care, communication, and social and political engagement amongst urban middle-class youth in Iran and Europe, and Hazara refugees and migrants from Afghanistan in Italy. Questions of citizenship (social, digital, legal), belonging, and inclusion and exclusion are explored through the experiences of individuals and groups, families and urban communities. The smartphone is brought into anthropological focus (Miller et al 2021) as conveying and producing complex practices, negotiations and entanglements of people, places and things, within and across spaces of belonging. The intention of the paper is to contribute ethnographic and methodological insights into the experiences and practices of lives lived across borders in the age of smartphones, and as such, contribute to a wider, ongoing re-imagining of ethnographic scholarship across borders (Sánchez 2019) concerning Europe and the Middle East.


Shireen Walton is a lecturer in anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research is in the field of visual and digital cultures, migration and mobilities, with a focus on digital-visual and multimodal ethnography. She has carried out ethnographic fieldwork in Iran, the UK, Italy, and online. She received her PhD in 2015 from the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford, with a thesis on popular digital photography in/of Iran, about which she has published several articles and book chapters in conjunction with her writing on digital and visual research methods. She joined UCL Anthropology in 2016 as a teaching fellow in material and visual culture, before carrying out postdoctoral research at the same institution between 2017-2020 as part of the ERC-funded project ‘The Anthropology of Smartphones and Smart Ageing’ (ASSA), involving 16 months of urban-digital ethnographic research in Milan, Italy. Her monograph based on this research, Ageing with Smartphones in Urban Italy: Care and Community in Milan and Beyond (2021), is published open-access with UCL Press as part of the ASSA book series