The Beauty of Ugliness: Preserving while Communicating Online with Shared Graphic Photos
In this paper, we report on interviews with 11 Shia content creators who create and share graphic, bloody photos of Tatbeer, a religious ritual involving self-harm practices on Ashura, the death anniversary of the prophet Muhammad’s grandson. We show how graphic images serve as an object of communication in religious practices with the local community, the inner-self, and a wider audience. In particular, we highlight how content creators appropriated, in their own words, “ugly” photos to preserve the authenticity and beauty of their rituals while communicating their own interpretation of such rituals to others. We suggest that ugliness may be regarded as a useful resource to inform systems that seek to invite dialogue with marginalized or minority groups.