Protesting and Having Fun: Humor in the 2017 Romanian Anti-Corruption Grassroots Mobilization
Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands
On the night of January 31, 2017, as news of the government’s plans to decriminalize corruption transpired, citizens across Romania spontaneously took to the streets. Throughout February, protesters gathered on a nightly basis in front of government buildings and in public squares. The scale of mobilization took the government by surprise, eventually halting its plans.
One of the striking features of these protests was the widespread use of humor in the posters citizens brought to the squares. Seldom tackled in the literature on collective action, humor contributes to the development of collective identity and action frames. Furthermore, humor plays into traditional and new media logics, not only attracting media coverage but also adding a ‘shareable’ dimension to protests, extending mobilization into the digital realm. Contributing to an emerging yet limited interest in humor in collective action, this paper asks what roles different types of humor played during the spring 2017 anti-corruption protests. Informed by discourse analysis principles, a sample of approx. 200 posters is analyzed in terms of content (signification, source of humor) and performativity (what the posters ‘do’ vis-a-vis protesters, opponents, and the imagined larger audiences).
Preliminary findings suggest different types of humor performed different inter-related roles: expressing and channeling emotions (e.g. anger, frustration), demonizing the opponent and constructing the collective ‘we’, crystallizing the moral framing of the issue, and celebrating the individual as a source of resistance to power.
Facing Collapses and Expressing Emotions through ARTIVISM in Genova, Marseille and Yaoundé
University of Lausanne, Switzerland
The effects of neoliberal globalisation can be observed on a material (architecture), economic (decrease and exodus of population) and psychological level. Within our ERC funded project "ARTIVISM. Art and Activism. Creativity and Performance as Subversive Forms of Political Expression in Super-Diverse Cities" (www.erc-activism.ch) we have come across several “events of crisis” that provoked strong emotions and artistic-activist reactions: the collapse of the Morandi bridge in Genova/Italy, the disintegration of the residential buildings in the rue d’Aubagne in Marseille/France, and the so-called “Anglophone crises” in Cameroon. In the three countries, various forms of artistic expression were used to express solidarity with the victims, to sensitise for the causes of crisis, or to exclaim anger against the representatives of political and economic power: cartooning, poetry, performances, concerts, comics, performances. The events of crisis also accentuated the politics of belonging (Yuval-Davis/Viethen/Kannabiran) in which activists and political representatives from different political backgrounds justified their solidarity or critique with their emotional ties to an urban quarter, a super-diverse-city, or a whole rural and urban region in crisis.
Through the ethnographic exploration of the mobilisations organized in Genova, Marseille and Yaoundé, in which poetry, cartoons and carnivalesque elements have been adopted by the participants to “mobilise for dignity” or to create “art for peace”, the paper investigates how people react artistically to deal with uncertainties, civil war and emotional choc.
Impact of Protest Events. From the Visual to the Artifactual
Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland
The aim of my paper is to put forward partial results of the research project, which is focused on the materiality of contentious performances on the street after 2008 (Butler 2015; Tilly 2008). The primary theoretical goal of the research project is to locate material artifacts in the center of contentious politics studies – which is realized through visual research methods: the content analysis of press-photos, ethnographic observations and photo-elicitation interviews with activists and organizers of street protests (Collier 2001; Philipps 2012).
Materiality of social protests was considered in social movements studies as a part of visual culture (Doerr, Mattoni 2007; Garrett 2015; Khatib 2013); as a an element of politics of the senses (Kim 2017); as a part of contentious communications - material devices of protest media (Fahlenbrach 2016) and also as an element of fashion and lifestyle movements (Haenfler, Johnson, Jones 2012; Tarlo 1996).
In my paper, I would like to discuss and emphasize the mediation of material objects in protest. A single act of street protest can be considered as a complex medium, which was expressed by Charles Tilly (2006) as a „WUNC display” – where the public impact of demonstration is based on the accurate use of bodily/fleshly, material and visual components. Mediated things, such as smartphones, functions as a weapon in the information struggles (Chiumbu 2012). Things also take part in diverse forms of protest communications, as a material base of framing (Snow, Benford 1988; Goffman 1974) – as a material interaction with the police, as an expression of movements symbol, and also part of political aesthetics of protest (Sartwell 2010) and street humour (Hart 2016, Tancons 2014).
Feminist Politics In Neoconservative Russia
University of Turku, Finland
A new feminist generation has emerged in Russia in the 2010s after a more quiet period of feminism in the 2000s. The contemporary feminist movement has been formed in a political context, in which opportunities for civic activism have been significantly curtailed. Simultaneously, the Russian government has introduced increasingly neoconservative policies that have targeted most severely women and LGBTIQ individuals, limiting their rights.
This PhD thesis analyses, what kind of dimensions feminist politics takes in a context characterized by shrinking political opportunities, while the internet and social media spaces simultaneously create a set of new digital opportunities for activism. The thesis argues that in this kind of context, feminist politics takes four key dimensions: it turns into reparative politics, politics of sheltering, politics of knowledge and politics of appearances. This presentation introduces these four dimensions of feminist politics. I suggest that all the dimensions are closely connected to movement resources and the shortage of them. Furthermore, the differences in activists’ access to resources put forward struggles between feminist groups and individuals. At the same time, feminism itself is understood as a significant personal resource for the activists.
The research draws theoretically from social movement studies, analysing both covert and overt forms of resistance as well investigating the spatial and temporal dimensions feminist activism takes in a neoconservative and increasingly authoritarian context. The research is based on a material produced ethnographically in St Petersburg, Moscow and Russian speaking online feminist spaces in 2015-2018. The material consists of 42 feminist activists’ interviews as well as participatory observation in different feminist gatherings, events and demonstrations.