Category Archives: DOC-team

Our Common Statement on Recent Attacks Against Critical Thought

We find deeply disturbing the recent success of right-wing groups and individuals to impose themselves on university campuses across the United States, and to silence critical voices as they amplify their own. The suspension of George Ciccariello-Maher by Drexel University, along with Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor cancelling her own speaking event, Mark Trahant’s resignation, Third World Quarterly publishing a text suggesting a positive view of colonialism and arguing for a partial recolonization of former colonies, and the attacks against Dr. Farhana Sultana for her vocal criticism of the text and its publication, are part of a successful attack of the far right on critical thought and exchange. These are of course just a few recent, high-profile examples of such attacks on the academy in North America. The repeated justification—in the name of free speech—of hosting white supremacist Alt-Right speakers and groups on campuses by university administrators is also disappointing. This creates an environment where racist, homophobic, and sexist-chauvinist speech is given equal status to all other speech, even as it advocates for the reversal of hard-fought social gains by historically oppressed groups.

Due to the complicit silence of most academic and non-academic institutions—within the US  and beyond—we recognize a need to express our discontent/discomfort with recent developments and voice our solidarity with those silenced and marginalized by it. In such an environment, the university can hardly be considered a safe space anymore. We acknowledge that this assault appears shocking and outrageous to us in part because of our privilege as white academics in West European and North American institutions. University colleagues and activists around the world that challenge oppressive domestic regimes, western neo-liberal reform packages, and neo-colonialism have often faced terrible persecution. But it is also true that such oppressive conditions have long existed within our own academic and social circles for People of Color, people living with disabilities, as well as other marginalized groups. In other words, the recent attack on radical and alternative voices within our institutions brings to light what has long been true for many.

We want a university to be a space where all students, staff, and professors feel safe. This environment should promote thought that challenges inequality in the societies we live in, the conditions and power regimes that create them. Therefore we state unequivocally that we stand with those being targeted by online trolls, and right-wing groups and organizations of all kinds, and demand our institutions stop accommodating hate groups while silencing progressive voices.

In Solidarity!

Knowledge Cultures

We are super pleased to have our first collaborative, academic publication out this week. It features in the journal Knowledge Cultures, in a special edition from the 2016 Audio Visual Pedagogies Conference in Zagreb. Here is the abstract and a link:

https://www.addletonacademicpublishers.com/contents-kc/1218-volume-5-5-2017/3183-visual-dimensions-of-protest-three-examples-from-the-balkans

This paper proposes a framework for understanding the visual cultures of protest beyond representative images. Through a performative reading the visual takes on a dynamic role, ultimately producing a variation of the reality that protesters are demanding. Through three examples from Slovenia, Greece and Serbia, the paper examines different dimensions of visual culture of protest. In Ljubljana the how and why of a protest of fans against their own club is examined. In Athens, we look at why activists insist on traditional poster making methods in the digital era, and how these posters then function in the city neighbourhood of Exarcheia. In Belgrade, we look at the uses of video production and distribution by feminist activists Women in Black (Žene u Crnom). Atmosphere, political posters and video activism from the three examples, through which we argue visuals connect the locally specific struggles to a global context, and creating a socially oriented, richer picture of the region without getting entangled in nationalist narratives. Each case also elaborates how and why protest was visualized adapting cultural signifiers and established protest forms to produce the performative reality they are seeking.

Unfortunately, it is behind a pay wall, but if you are interested in reading it, get in touch.

Soccer GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

A Brief Conference Review

On the 18 and 19 of May, 2017, the University of Manchester hosted the interdisciplinary conference Everyday Revolutions in Southern and Eastern Europe. We took the opportunity to organize a panel on visual protest repertoires and present our research project, the first occasion in two years to present together. Due to a general strike in Greece, responding to a fresh round of austerity, not all of us were ultimately able to attend, however. Here we’ll say a few words about the conference and quickly summarize our main contributions. While there is also a lot to reflect on in regards to the suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena on the night of the 21st shortly after the conference ended, we will not do so here. Needless to say, the death of concert attendees is a terrible loss for the families affected, and to the vibrant and diverse community of Manchester.

The conference brought together many PhD, post-Doc, and academics at other stages in their careers to present and debate research around the concept of Everyday Revolutions. The organizers write: “Moving beyond questions of radical transformation and irreversible political change, the concept of ‘everyday revolutions’ problematizes the overlooked revolutionary potential of small-scale resistance, grassroots mobilisation, counter-culture, liberation movements, and alternative provisioning, among others.” The Keynote was delivered by Prof. Davina Cooper. With the title ‘What good is playing at being a state?’, she explored the various meanings, manifestations and critiques of the state, and its impact on daily life.

With this frame, we chose to each present our individual work within the wider project of “Contentious Images, Unruly Practices.” We did not spend any of our limited time on the general framework, save a brief introduction given by Julia at the top of the panel. While the picture was incomplete due to Angelos’ absence, and the “work in progress” point we are at, the panel was ideal also for our own reflection upon the interconnections in our works.

In her contribution, Julia traced the evolution of her research project on street art in Athens Aesthetics of Crisis from a rather static social movement studies framework towards one more attuned to the contingencies of everyday life. Following Lauren Berlant’s understanding of the crisis as “an emergency in the reproduction of life, a transition that has not found its genres for moving on,”[1] she offered a critical feminist framework for understanding the current proliferation of street art in Athens as a meaningful intervention into the current political configuration. She described how the walls of the city have come to function as a living archive of the current historical conjuncture and a site for imagining new political potentials and encounters. Considering street art not merely as visual artifacts but also as performative practice, Julia argued that street art is not a static representation of its given socio-cultural context but also has the potential to actively transform urban space and reimagine everyday life by inscribing alternative histories and possibilities into the very surface of the city.

The focus of her analysis was with figurative artworks, expressive portrayals of the corporeal and affective impact of crisis and austerity of everyday life. By making visible the shared affective condition of the crisis, one marked by precaritization and uncertainty, street artists claim the walls of the city as a space for emotionally processing the continuous state of exception. The task of dealing with this deeply felt precarity is typically relegated to the privacy of the domestic sphere, as demanded by what anthropologist Athena Athanasiou calls the truth regime of crisis and austerity: “not only do people have to engage in a daily struggle against economic hardship and humiliation, but they are also called upon to bear all this without any sign of outrage or dissent.”[2] By visualizing this collective vulnerability of the everyday in public space, works of street art may eventually become meaningful as a basis and resource for political solidarity and community formation.

Next, Marija explored the multifaceted phenomena of video activism and how it is adopted and used by the feminist antimilitarist women´s organisation Women in Black (Žene u crnom) in Serbia. More than ever the vast amount of circulating digital videos and the influence they have today, both on our everyday life but also in protest settings, calls for examining conceptualisation, production, and use of digital videos in their local context. She proposed exploring video activism of WiB through a peformative lens as an act of visual writing of women´s history and their struggles and video as a visual artefact for documentation, representation and research of this history.

Special focus was on videos that were produced to promote a feminist model of transitional justice. This model is presented through the concept of Women´s Court, a unique model in the region of Ex-Yugoslavia, developed to offer a different safe space for all women (witnesses, activist and academics) for their voices to be heard. The aim of the first videos made by WiB´s video activist group in 2010 was to make visible the effects of various models of transitional justice, especially of the feminist approach to justice to the broader public, and to facilitate a change of values, ideas of peace, justice and solidarity (Women in Black, 2011). Today there are 17 videos produced around the topic of Women´s Court for internal and external audiences, which were made to document and represent the project: it´s development, implementation and discussions around it. The effectiveness of these videos is directly linked to their performative character. They should not be seen only as representation; rather, they can also have their own life, potential and power to create possible worlds.[3] Under certain circumstances they can produce countervisuality[4], new political subjectivities[5], articulate opposition or resistance and thus renegotiate or even reverse power relations. Moving images produced by WiB are not just presenting a new model of justice but are also showing internal (activists) gazes and powerful political images of women: attendant in the past and present historical political events, diverse, united, active, images which are challenging dominant patriarchal and nationalistic public discourses and have a great potential for the production of new political subjectivites.

David took the occasion to work out the central concept of “general atmosphere”[6] in his work. The atmosphere is composed of various elements, from bodies and sounds, to movement, clothing, and materials such as banners, stickers, and flares. But it is also context. The atmosphere is thus not just an aesthetic concept, but should be regarded as inviting also the analysis of the temporal and special moment in which it is being created. Deeply visual, atmosphere communicates the subject of the protest, along with its object and demand. When fans create atmosphere in a stadium, they are doing something similar, and when they protest, as in the case of Olimpija Ljubljana fans over the course of 2013-2014, they deploy the same visual repertoires.

In football, this atmosphere is a key dimension of the game. Matches are radically transformed without active supporters in the stadium. This in turn informs fan protest strategies, such as using the boycott, but it also is the core of free labor for the industry of football. Where fans generate exciting and colorful atmosphere, they are subject to a double exploitation: paying entrance fees and delivering a performance that the industry is able to use for promotion of its product (of which the fan is part – and this is in addition to their operating costs). In the field of fan labor this is an established part of the analysis. [7] But it has rarely been considered in the context of sport fans.[8] While the fan protest is generally not a radical rupture, and in the case of the Green Dragons is reformist in nature, looking at fan labor, the use of boycott as a tool, in conjuncture with notions of how capitalism is able to financialize affect, it becomes an opportunity to better understand forms of everyday exploitation. As a result, we are also better able to identify the dynamic between these forms of appropriation and those who resist and seek alternative social and economic relations.

***

References:

[1] Lauren Berlant, “Austerity, Precarity, Awkwardness,” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Montreal, 2011, https://supervalentthought.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/berlant-aaa-2011final.pdf.

[2] Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou, Dispossession: The Performative in the Political (Cambridge: John Wiley & Sons, 2013), 149.

[3] Lazzarato, M (2003) Struggle, Event, Media. Republicart 5.

[4] Mirzoeff, N (2011) The right to look: A counterhistory of visuality. Durham: Duke University Press.

[5] Razsa, M J (2014) Beyond ‘Riot Porn’: Protest Video and the Production of Unruly Subjects. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 79 (4): 496–524.

[6] van Leeuwen, A, van Stekelenburg, J, and Klandermans, B. (2016). The phenomenology of protest atmosphere: A demonstrator Perspective. In European Journal of Social Psychology. 46(1), 44–62. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2139

[7] Stanfill, Mel and Megan Condis, eds. 2014. Fandom and/as Labor in Transformative Works and Cultures 15. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2014.0593

[8] Tarver, Erin. 2017. The I in Team: Sports Fandom and the Reproduction of Identity. Chicago:University of Chicago Press.

Knowledge – Cultures

We were thrilled to get confirmation a day ago that our team will have its first common and scientific publication in the journal Knowledge – Cultures. Slated to be included in the journal later this year, the article is based on our presentation at last year’s AVPC 2016:  Visual Pedagogies and Digital Cultures conference in Zagreb, Croatia. See this post for more on the conference. The article was collaboratively written by Marija, Angelos, and David.

The article takes the title “Visual Dimension of Protest: three examples from the Balkans” and sketches out a framework that we are all working within. Our central focus here was to operationalize the term Visual Protest Repertoires (VPR), building on social movement theory (specifically Tilly’s repertoires of contention), visual culture, and performativity.

The article then presents the three cases that are the core of our individual research within the Contentious Images project: Women in Black, political posters, and football fan protests. We felt it was important to bring as much “practical” examples to the paper as we are still defining our theoretical frames, exploring the edges of VPR, and conducting our research. In this way, the paper very much represents a mid-way point in the research, and an initial articulation of our concept and fields.

Focusing on the practice, on the tangiable dimensions that we have thus far recorded and considered makes a “work in progress” paper useful and accessible to readers. Reflecting on our data, field notes and work thus far begins (we hope) a process of discussion with a scientific community about/around our work. Finally, it was also useful as a way for us to take advantage of our support structure through comments from various mentors, particularly Marion Hamm – who also worked out the term VPR together with us.

A Protest in Brooklyn

I ran into a protest in Brooklyn in November. On my way somewhere else, I heard a commotion down a small neighborhood street. I could see police and a sectioned off area, people holding signs. Fortunately, I had my camera; unfortunately I had an almost empty battery and no back up (lesson learned).

The protest was on the issue of homeless housing in area. The protest demanded a stop to “warehousing” homeless people in hotels, which is not a long term solution, nor a cost-effective one. They argued that hotels were being built in their neighborhoods that had no tourism, but were going to look to take advantage of City money for housing the homeless, effectively becoming for-profit homeless shelters. But there was also a very conservative vein to this protest, when the protest demanded the abolition of the New York City law that mandates the City house any homeless person seeking assistance. The fear was that this encouraged the homeless to take advantage of local tax-payers, something explicitly mentioned in the video. A discourse that echoes what we often hear in discussions on immigration.

These seem to offer contradictory positions, with wanting to help the homeless with long term solutions, using available and vacant houses, and wanting to end the City’s commitment to help for fear of outsiders taking advantage of this. The question of gentrification is also present. On the one side people are fearful of getting priced out homes through particular forms of development. On the other side the (conflicted) attitude towards the homeless and the resources they require suggests that people also want to preserve their neighborhood’s appearance, protecting it from potential “degradation” by accommodating welfare cases and institutions. They appear to want to keep the neighborhood as it is, for the middle (or working) class.

The protest also offered a series of creative visuals both expounding on what people thought was the issue, and in some cases with a degree of humor. These signs also connected to wider social concerns in the US. The “stop the war on the middle-class”, for example, was widely used in recent elections by almost all candidates, and reflects the importance of the middle class in liberal capitalism, where it is seen as source of stability, while also undermining broader worker solidarity. As such, it is a conservative discourse, and suggests that some protesters saw this protest as being (also) about their standard of living. Another sign, however, suggested this was an attack on the working class.

Others expressed resentment by attacking the politicians themselves (“the dope of Parkslope” was sung repetitively and also on some signs). The diversity of opinions and at times contradictory messages was however secondary to the appearance of unity, with a clear, vocal presence focused on the single question of opposing the “warehousing” of the homeless.

Everyday Revolutions

We are off to Manchester… in May! The conference is Everyday Revolutions in Southern and Eastern Europe, supported by the University of Manchester, and happily, our proposed panel was accepted. We submitted a panel on visual repertoires of social movements and struggles in Southeast Europe. The papers will largely correspond to the research themes of the contentious images team: football fan protests, radical left political posters, politicized street art, and feminist video activism.

Keep in mind we are still developing our panel and our individual papers, but broadly speaking we aim to examine how the visual is being deployed in movements, and also how scholarship is developing as a result. We are particularly interested in looking at the visual as both a culturally embedded practice, but that also break past local particularities, and a dynamic part of any protest or act of protest in its own right. This last point is particularly intriguing as it has yet to be significantly included in social movement research. We would like to see how visuals become an interactive, performative element of the protests, both in the moment as materialization of alternatives, and also in interacting with representation.

We are looking forward to this opportunity to develop our collaborative work, get some feedback, and all be in the same place for the first time since 2014(!).

See you there.

Digital Technologies and History

Has digital production changed how we will remember historical events? This was the question I received at the round table in AVPC2016 in Zagreb. It was not one I was expecting, so my answer was rather awkward at the time, and I would like to develop my point somewhat here. It seems to me to be an important question. The short answer is yes, but with many qualifications, and in the end, also some important critiques. The longer answer follows below, and the focus is on the more practical dimensions of digital media tools in activist and research contexts. The post covers what the explosion and easier access has brought to activism, giving an example of the media collective Komunal, in Ljubljana, and to research. It then covers some of the problems that come with the greater access and use of digital technologies.

The “Yes” part.

The greater access to technology has meant more is produced, faster: we have more people who can document something and share it. The cost and portability is a big factor here. Now a film like Blokada (2016) is possible; a rapidly evolving situation can be covered as it develops, just with a few hand-held cameras, a short (or possibly even no) planning period, and a lot of spontaneous developments and coordination. The cameras are able to move as quickly as the people and the situations.

A person unfamiliar with the technology can easily produce an intelligible image. The digital nature of the image also means no expensive film stock must be constantly bought, loaded, transferred, processed and stored. With just a few memory cards and batteries, and the camera and maybe an external microphone, you can run and shoot all day.

Editing is now also possible from your desktop. There is high end, but still user friendly editing software that can be easily acquired, some at a cost, others for free. So the material can be instantly transferred to the computer or an external disk and then uploaded in to the software, cut and exported onto some online platform, such as youtube or vimeo. For activists in particularly, this has made things much faster. In combination with social media distribution networks, getting things out into public discourse is possible more often and at a faster rate.

Thus activists, and activist film makers, for relatively little money, can establish a media presence and create counter-narratives that can be of high quality, can be quickly produced, and quickly distributed within the network and to their local media. They can produce whole films with DIY knowledge and budgets.

It is also worth pointing out that here the sharing follows a logic of abundance, where use and reproduction increase the quantity of the good or service. I can send one video file in an email to three hundred people, and thus instantly reproduce the film three hundred times for the cost of the few moments of electricity, and with little quality degradation. These reproductive possibilities that do not depend on any additional (or very few) material costs mean access and sharing of the film, or video, or power point, etc., actually increase its availability. Use thus increases the item, rather than reducing or damaging it.

An example from Komunal.org

I used the recent events in Ljubljana, specifically ROG, to highlight the above comments. In short, ROG, a squatted factory, is under threat of eviction from the municipality intent on demolishing some of the buildings. There is no pending investment for remodeling, despite the intention of turning ROG into a center for cultural production (which it already is, just autonomous and self-organized). Yet the municipality sought to impose the deconstruction of some buildings in order to secure open work permits for the next few years (ready, one assumes, for eventual investment). The start of this procedure came at 3am on the 14 of June. A private security firm entered the squat with a large construction digger. The community was ready and resisted, which provoked a violent reaction from the security guards.

Long story short, the struggle was caught on multiple camera phones and video cameras and released bit by bit through komunal. Komunal is a media collective in Ljubljana, Slovenia that produces and provides a platform for media production related to the radical left scene in Slovenia and abroad. The collective has developed a website and uses social media (twitter and Facebook) to share content. According to the website, the aim here is to

Our platform is an attempt to provide better access to issues, events and perspectives ignored by other media. We see our production as research into invisible and misunderstood social conditions. Media in this capacity plays a critical role in opening social conflicts by exposing social contradictions and isolation, oppressions, exploitations and social, political and economic injustice.[1]

In this situation it was the first site to have such media up and sent around. It was quickly picked up by larger media portals and the evening news. This effectively put a perspective into in the public discourse (first, before any other) from within the squat, with the users of ROG as the victims of violence. This was possible because of the ease of producing such material in the digital era. Any future memorializing of this event, of transformation of the city, gentrification, etc. will have this perspective easily accessible as a result.

For researchers, this has also opened new potential for producing material within the research frame. The digital camera (with video capabilities) can fit in your pocket or is integrated into your phone, making it at once more accessible and also less obvious and awkward. Sarah Pink’s work in documenting daily life, for example, takes place in homes (2012) or on the streets with the slow city movement (2008). The use large, heavy cameras would greatly restrict such practices, and make it much harder for researchers to become (at least partially) part of the scene. The documenting of an event as it unfolds, or returning to the site of an event and visually reconstructing it, examining the consequences, etc., and made much easier as a result of access to this cheap technology.

Greater use of these technologies in research can also lead to articulating results in different ways, and thus making, potentially, the results more accessible to a wider audience. This seems to be the theory behind launching the Video Journal of Education and Pedagogy[2]. The predominance of written text confines the image and the video to a bit part, accompanying the narrative in the way that sprinkles do ice cream. But increasingly it is becoming possible to produce picture essays, and now even video articles. Here the hierarchy of text over image is broken down. The picture essay or video article has its own attraction to researchers, but presumably also to audiences, particularly ones who may not read an academic article. I imagine that in a school setting, where a multitude of learning styles is present, such options are important. This also allows us to reimagine the function of the visual in everyday life and where our interaction with the visual produces (new)realities.

The critique bit

So when we consider this in the context of the impact it can have on history, it is of course immense. More records are simply going to be available, from many different perspectives (assuming of course that we retain our access to such technologies in the future). The historical records that this allows us to leave behind is simply staggering, and at such little cost. However, here we must also take account of some of the problems and limitations of this situation. First, leading off of the last point, more perspectives and more videos, etc., does not mean a more accurate, quality historical record. In the worst case it also can just mean more noise and factual, ideological distortions to weed through. It is also easier to hide behind an avatar, making the future sourcing of materials all the more difficult.

The abundance and relative cheap cost masks the reality of most people still not having access to such equipment and knowledge. Outside of a relatively small part of the world, and in the poorer classes, these cheap cameras are still economically unreachable. Along with this comes a large environmental cost to the production of this technology, which at its origin starts with mineral extraction in (often) slave like conditions for the workers. From mainstream leftists like Paul Mason to more radical, academic voices like Michael Hart and Antonio Negri (2004), the notion too often is that the abundance logic of affective labor and non-material labor is achieved through the democratized access to technology and its simplicity. Their argument is that a form of commoning is occurring thanks to the centrality of our immaterial labor and the technologies supporting that labor. However, Silvia Federici (2006) has argued that this ignorance of the production chain profoundly undermines social movements’ claims on justice, and renders invisible forms of labor and exploitation.

The concentration of this technology in wealthier parts of the country also means that the dominant narratives and experiences will again find their voice the easiest and exclude the subaltern ones. As Federici’s critique suggests, the same is true of critical feminist voices. The content produced is thus still highly gendered and subject to global class relations, where the critical voices heard are still just the usual suspects. So even where these narratives are critical it is still problematic as they represent European and North American masculine realities and experiences that should not speak for the world.

An old, yet still valid concern with visual materials is of course the perspective of truth. Is it true because we see it happening on video or in a picture? In short, no. Video is always a representation and not a whole context. The person filming is already making editorial choices before they even turn on the camera: which situations to cover, where to stand, what kind of images to look for, what to ask (if doing interviews), etc. Gillian Rose (2001, 2) reminds us that images “interpret the world; they display it in very particular ways; they represent it.” This is always true, regardless of whether you have five of five hundred images of a situation.

A final point is that abundance of production does not translate into quality productions, important content, or ethical content. It can be used by racist movements just as easily, and the lack of any standards or control means it can be used in harmful, exploitative ways, as it always has. Only now it is perhaps easier to give a response, and create a counter narrative. In short, we need to be careful of claims that the increasing availability and ease of use of documentation technology radically changes the power relations in a society or gives greater power to social justice movements, even while it clearly can and does influence how events will be remembered.

In conclusion, this piece has attempted to reflect briefly on the impact that digital media has had on activism and research in the context of how something is remembered down the line. While I argue that it absolutely can influence public knowledge of something, and diversify the means of representation (and thus the accessible views), this is not without a few problems. There are important ecological questions here, as well as older questions of what and how, and by whom, something is represented. Greater access can, but does not necessarily answer these questions.

Refrences

Federici, Silvia (2006). “Precarious Labor: A Feminist Viewpoint”. On https://inthemiddleofthewhirlwind.wordpress.com/precarious-labor-a-feminist-viewpoint/ (last accessed 13.6.2016)

Hardt, M and Negri, A (2000). Empire. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, USA

Pink, Sarah (2012). Situating Everyday Life. London: Sage.

_________ (2008). “Mobilizing Visual Ethnography: Making Routes, Making Place and Making Images” in Forum: Qualitative Social Research Volume 9, No. 3.

Rose, Gillian (2001). Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to the Interpretation of Visual Materials. London: Sage.

Endnotes

[1] http://www.komunal.org/komunal-org – last accessed 5.7.2016

[2] http://videoeducationjournal.springeropen.com/

Research Blog

The Centre for Southeast European studies has a new research blog online. They aim to grow the blog as a space for reflecting on research, and methodological questions and debates. The most recent post is one from our Doc-team member. Take a look here: Visualizing the Field.

 

May First Demonstration

May 1st in Graz was marked by various left wing political parties, such as the Social democrats (SPÖ) and the Communist Party (KPÖ), and leftist groups and unions. While the SPÖ chose to gather for a static celebration in the city center (mit bier und würstl, as one comrade described it), the KPÖ and various unions and activist groups staged a march through city. The weather was a disaster, but non-the-less the turnout was good.

Our first protest video (as a DOC-team) captures some of the sights, color, and sounds of the demonstrations and actions from the day. For a bit of history on the origins of May Day, take a watch of Peter Linebaugh’s interview on Democracy Now.

Collective writing

We are writing our first collective text since putting together the proposal for the DOC-team application back in 2014. Written for the AVPC2016 conference, the text is a reflection on our work since June, taking on board new readings and feedback. The only caveat is that it will not contain any data from our field research since we are only moving to the field towards the end of the summer. It is, however, a chance to get some (very) early clues as to how we might organize our final presentation of the project in a few years’ time. Finally, and this I would like to meditate a bit on here, it is a chance to experiment with collective writing and explore linkages between our works.

Our project is effectively three distinct research fields connected through a common methodological (visual ethnography) and theoretical (social movement theory, visual culture and performativity) framework. At a glance this gives the appearance of a disjointed project. It is certainly not a frame in which our data sets will be building on each other directly. The common work is thus less systematic. Instead, the flow is more like a separating and coming back together. We are constantly floating between our individual research and the common frame.

Our challenge is to find a balance. We don’t want to be too preoccupied with individual components that represent our personal interest and research passions. And yet, we want to have our own voice in the project, not getting lost in the common theories and methodologies. Our voices are our own, but should harmonize as well. This means, of course, that the collective part is transformed through our individual works, and vice-versa, our individual work is transformed through collective work. Importantly, our individual voice is also transformed through the influence of the others’ voices. The distinction remains, we do not become “one voice”, but the interaction changes things – new arguments, approaches, styles, etc., come into the mix.

We want the paper to reflect the same flow as our project, bringing forth this tension between individual and collective dynamics in the research. Our first paper thus takes shape: a common intro (theory, methods), three distinct examples, and a return to the common via a final reflection on the examples we have, and the questions this brings forth for our project. Our writing process has been similar. Common discussions on what we need, individual writing, common review and polishing.

Of course, it was not so linear or so smooth. There was much back and forth, changes to earlier decisions that were not materializing as we hoped, or we just forgot what the agreed approach was, no-one wrote it down, etc. This constant correcting is also a key part of the process of writing the paper, and even the slow cooking of the whole project.

This is, in a sense, an important process of reflection on all levels of our work. “Reflection” is also a key tool in our methodology. Douglas Macbeth (2001) writes: “reflexivity is a deconstructive exercise for locating the intersections of author, other, text, and world…”. We just pluralize all Macbeth’s aforementioned categories, particularly the first one: “authors”.