Blog Post 2: Dancing in Chains.

My interest in political activism started developing throughout my teenage years. While it would definitely be a stretch for me to call myself a full-functioning activist in those times, I was still reasonably exposed to activism in various forms on the post-soviet space platform. There are a few mediums that I find especially interesting when it comes to exercising activism, and because of my background, I’m especially interested in the anatomy of protest via those mediums in the frame of severe regulatory restraint (e.g. in the USSR).

  • Hacktivism in totalitarian regimes. It would be interesting to investigate whether using the internet as a weapon against the heaviest forms of governmental control can make a change.
  • Activism through film.
  • Activism through literature in the USSR
  • Activism through culture jamming. This is something I haven’t thought about that much prior to this class, but the idea fascinates me. I’d love to find out more about specific examples of the ways in which culture jamming can affect modern day industrial giants.
  • Kvartirniki. Protest through bard song.

This one is my favorite topic so far. Being an activist in a society where walls have ears is a challenge and ungrateful experience. I think it would be fascinating to find out what hope and expectations these people had, how they perceived their own actions and how they estimated their chances of making a change. In this also lies the potential issue with the topic: one could argue that activism in such an “inactive” form shouldn’t even be classified as activism, but I would want to try to argue the converse.  I deeply admire people who can’t stay silent despite knowing that:

  1. choosing to vocalize their complaints can be a life-threatening decision;
  2. they are most like not going to see a change in the structure of the society they live in during their lifetime,

and I’d love to dig deeper into the anatomy of the process.

One thought on “Blog Post 2: Dancing in Chains.”

  1. A good starting point for addressing this topic might be to look for research that examines the phenomenon of dissent under authoritarian and totalitarian systems more broadly. You might find something arguing that, in this context, even a seemingly insignificant or “inactive” form of activism can be extremely subversive. Personally, I’ve thought a lot about how voicing one’s criticisms of an authoritarian system can be life-threatening and how this relates specifically to online activism, which is also dismissed as very passive and meaningless. However, it does seem to be more meaningful when viewed through the lens of the person’s willingness to take risks. Does the willingness to speak despite the danger somehow make “passive” activism more impactful, especially when the audience is also aware of that danger? In the context of kvartirniki, it might also make sense to examine the distinctions between public and private space–how do interactions between the performer and the audience change in the private space? Does the music existing specifically in the private space make it inherently subversive (given the regulations in the public space)? Further, what other value do kvartirniki have? When looking at costs to engagement in protest/activism (such as potential punishment), it is important to look at the benefits as well– do kvartirniki serve a social purpose that encourages people to engage in them, regardless of potential costs?


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