Material Artifacts and Contentious Politics. Methodological Sketches of Visual Study on Protest Movements

Friday, 20 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Bartosz SLOSARSKI, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland
The main aim of my speech is to put forward methodological issues and results of the ongoing research project titled „Objects of Protest. Material Cultures of Contemporary Social Movements”, which is focused on the materiality of contentious politics and performances on the street after 2008 (Tarrow, Tilly 2015; Tilly 2008). Especially I would like to condiser the visual ethnography (Collier 2001; Juris, Khasnabish 2016) – its legal, cognitive and theoretical advantages or limitations - in the area of social movements sociology (Della Porta 2014; Doerr, Mattoni, Teune 2013; Philipps 2012). In the research project there is employed the definition of material artifacts not only as representations of political ideology or identity, but as a part of the social mobilization processes too (Johnston 2009; 2014).

The first stage of the project was focused on the systemic mapping and interpreting the material cultures of street protests in Warsaw, Brussels, Berlin and London in the years 2008-2017 – the empirical ground for observing material objects of protest was based on press-photos of major agencies (N=600) (Koopmans, Rucht 2002). This mapping process of first stage is deepening by ethnographic observations of protest campaigns in the mentioned capital cities (nationalist, feminist and anti-austerity protests). A single act of street protest is 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, material and visual compontents.Material artifacts are taking part in diversive forms of protest communications – as a material interaction with the police, as an expression of political aesthetics and movements symbols (Sartwell 2010), and also part of visual communication (Fahlenbrach 2016) with its impact on diagnostic, prognostic and motivational framing of protest (Snow, Benford 1988).