Cultural Activism

Practices, Dilemmas, and Possibilities


Volume Editors: Begüm Özden Firat and Aylin Kuryel
This volume addresses contemporary activist practices that aim to interrupt and reorient politics as well as culture. The specific tactics analyzed here are diverse, ranging from culture jamming, sousveillance, media hoaxing, adbusting, subvertising, street art, to hacktivism, billboard liberation, and urban guerilla, to name but a few. Though indebted to the artistic and political movements of the past, this form of activism brings a novel dimension to public protest with its insistence on humor, playfulness, and confusion. This book attempts to grasp both the old and new aspects of contemporary activist practices, as well as their common characteristics and internal varieties. It attempts to open up space for the acknowledgement of the ways in which contemporary capitalism affects all our lives, and for the reflection on possible modes of struggling with it. It focuses on the possibilities that different activist tactics enable, the ways in which those may be innovative or destructive, as well as on their complications and dilemmas. The encounter between the insights of political, social and critical theory on the one hand and activist visions and struggles on the other is urgent and appealing. The essays collected here all explore such a confrontational collaboration, testing its limits and productiveness, in theory as well as in practice. In a mutually beneficial relationship, theoretical concepts are rethought through activist practices, while those activist practices are developed with the help of the insights of critical theory. This volume brings scholars and activists together in the hope of establishing a productive dialogue between the theorizations of the intricacies of our times and the subversive practices that deal with them.

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Aylin Kuryel is a doctoral candidate in Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA). Her dissertation focuses on the image politics of nationalism. She is also involved in artist/activist collectives and film-making.
Begüm Özden Fırat is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology in Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Istanbul, Turkey. She works in the fields of visual culture, urban sociology, and social movements studies and she is involved in different local activist groups.
Begüm Özden Fırat and Aylin Kuryel: Introduction
Gavin Grindon: The Notion of Irony in Cultural Activism
A.K. Thompson: The Resonance of Romanticism: Activist Art & the Bourgeois Horizon
Marco Deseriis: Lots of Money Because I am Many: The Luther Blissett Project and the Multiple-Use Name Strategy
Ronen Eidelman: The Separation Wall in Palestine: Artists Love to Hate it
Anja Kanngieser: Breaking Out of the Specialist “Ghetto”: Performative Encounters as Participatory Praxis in Radical Politics
Emrah Irzık: A Proposal for Grounded Cultural Activism: Communication Strategies, Adbusters, and Social Change
Christian Scholl: Bakunin’s Poor Cousins: Engaging Art for Tactical Interventions
L. M. Bogad: Clowndestine Maneuvers: A Study of Clownfrontational Tactics
Michael Shane Boyle: Play with Authority!: Radical Performance and Performative Irony
Appendix: Inventory of Practices
The Contributors