Mobilizing pity: the dialectics of narrative production and erasure in the case of Iran’s #BlueGirl

Nazanin Shahrokni, Spyros A. Sofos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article we present a case analysis of Sahar Khodayari’s transformation into a global injustice icon, the #BlueGirl, after she set herself ablaze outside a courthouse in Tehran, Iran, allegedly in protest against the ban on women entering football stadiums. We focus on the ways in which ‘pity’ was generated, mobilized, and transformed into indignation against the Iranian state by digital activists. Drawing on the literature on the politics of pity, we explore the creation of a global icon, the #BlueGirl, draw attention to the gendered elements of Sahar Khodayari’s iconization, and take a closer look at the mobilization of affect mechanisms set in motion. The article suggests that the politics of pity rests on a chain of erasures that deprive the pitiable other of their agency, history and historicity, and erase the global conditions that contribute to the suffering of the former, thus, localizing responsibility and instituting western moral hierarchies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-219
Issue number2
Early online date2021 Jan 13
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)


  • feminist activism
  • gender
  • iconization
  • Iran
  • mobilization
  • Politics of pity


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