a collaborative research project in visual culture and social struggles in southeastern europe

This page serves as a blog for the collaborative research project Contentious Images – Unruly Practices. An Ethnography of Visual Protest Repertoires in Southeastern Europe. The project is housed at the Karl-Franzens-Universität in Graz, and supported by a DOC-team scholarship from the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the ÖAW.

Recent political mobilisations have been accompanied by an abundance of highly visualised and creative street protests pointing to a new type of networked, culturally inclined social movement. The DOC-team project Contentious Images – Unruly Practices aims to analyse the visual dimension of contemporary protest in four empirical settings located in Southeastern Europe. The research is guided by two interconnected questions: How is protest visualized in contemporary Southeastern Europe, and why are actors emphasizing visual protest repertoires? The first question aims at processes of meaning-making on the micro-level: how do protest actors link their everyday experiences to the political terrain through ‘contentious images’ and ‘unruly practices’. The second question calls for a wider contextualisation of visual protest repertoires. This takes into account discursive arrangements of visual regimes, historical and political conditions, as well as cultural patterns of seeing, acting and interpreting.

These research questions will be approached through four visual ethnographies of distinct visual protest repertoires in urban settings in Southeastern Europe. David Brown draws on recent historical experience to examine contentious public performances by football fans in Tuzla (Bosnia-Herzegovina) and Maribor (Slovenia). Angelos Evangelinidis explores activist media practices through political posters in Athens (Greece). Marija Martinović studies how the women’s movement in Belgrade (Serbia) uses video activism as a performative practice for new subjectivities. In addition, Julia Tulke, pursuing her Ph.D in the Visual and Cultural Studies Programm at the University of Rochester, NY will be an external contributor. The collaboration of the DOC-team benefits from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, including history, economics, gender studies, political science, and anthropology.

The region of Southeastern Europe is characterized by its peripheral position, a long-term state of transition and high levels of contestation. Examining visual artefacts and practices from the protests that have swept the region in the past years the DOC-team will analyse the historical particularities of the region while also contributing to wider debates on the changing nature of political participation and social change. 

Drawing on social movement theory and protest research the DOC-team research adopts a distinctly cultural approach to protest. In this way, the project will contribute to the ongoing scholarly debate on cultural aspects of protest and social movements. Its particular focus on visual artefacts and practices fills an important gap in this field. The introduced concept of visual protest repertoires will connect a central concept from social movement theory to the yet under-researched visual realm.

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contentiousimages [at] gmx.at