Sanctions and the affective politics of vulnerability: the Iranian national imaginary in a time of crisis

  • Sarah Tafakori

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis examines the emotional politics around the US-led economic sanctions on Iran, within a theoretical framework informed by feminist studies of affect and emotion. My research centres on the affective narratives generated and circulated on Iranian social media around imaginings of Iran as a suffering nation, and understands mediated articulations of pain, rage, despair and hope as also imbricated in local and global discourses of politicised emotions. It focuses on the affective repertoires generated on the Farsi Facebook pages of Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, and of BBC Persian, during the 2013-15 sanctions negotiations between Iran and the ‘P5+1’ (UN Security Council plus Germany). I explore how sanctions have been felt and produced as crisis, that of an exceptional precarity, towards which the national imaginary was oriented. I contend that a new discursive genre of compassion, linked to ‘recognition’ of people’s suffering under sanctions, was generated around the Rouhani presidency in 2013, and worked as a counter to a perceived denial of empathy in both global and local discourses on sanctions. The intimacy that the public constructed around the figure of Zarif, as representing the newly ‘compassionate state’, permitted the exposure and staging of the nation as vulnerable. In turn, these online articulations of vulnerability played a role in shaping the national imaginary, through the construction categories of ‘us’ - those empathising with suffering - and a non-compassionate ‘them’ - Western powers and the Iranian ruling class.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAnastasia Valassopoulos (Supervisor) & Zahia Smail Salhi (Supervisor)


  • Affect,emotion, international relations, iran,social media,Facebook, online publics, empathy, compassion, Suffering,

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