Tag Archives: politics

LIVE 24/7: two cartoons from Iraq

15 Nov

The times have gone, when a social approach to art history was able to produce such classics as Arnold Hauser‘s Social History of Art, and yet – no doubt thanks to my library work within the social sciences – I am always fascinated by (contemporary) works of art that know how to address broader issues than only aesthetic/poetic ones.

Here follows an example from political cartoonist Abdul Raheem Yassir’s work, seen (and photographed) last month at the Iraqi Pavilion at the 55th “Biennale di Venezia”: present-day media pervasiveness and our (active) role therein are finely addressed by both cartoons.

Abdul Raheem Yassir Tank

Abdul Raheem Yassir Interview


Italian elections 2013: social media and political participation

19 Feb

Italy’s general election has been called for on next 24-25 February. If you are Italian and living in a foreign Country without being registered with the AIRE (Anagrafe Italiana Residenti Estero, Register of Italian citizens abroad: applies only for stays longer than twelve months), the only way to participate elections held during your stay abroad is to travel back home.

This means that all Italians – from (exchange) students to (voluntary) workers – temporarily living in a foreign Country will have to consider whether they want their participation to the approaching elections easily to become their most expensive vote so far.


Motivated by their will to vote and by the inequality of rights between Italian citizens themselves, and between Italians and other EU-citizens (the parliament in Rome has so far been unable to provide any legal framework for voting abroad such as those available, amongst others, to Dutch, British and French citizens, no matter how long their stay abroad is), a number of students took in January different initiatives meant both to stigmatize the problem and to call for symbolic (online) polls to be organized at the same time of the election in different foreign cities.

Here they are on a row:
Studenti italiani che non potranno votare alle prossime elezioni (Facebook page; Italian students that will not be able to vote in the next election);
Vogliovotare (I want to vote) and Iovotofuorisede (I vote ‘fuori sede’), for students enrolled at Italian Universities elsewhere than in their own hometown (‘fuori sede’);
Iovogliovotare (I want to vote), for all Italian citizens temporarily living abroad.

Waiting for next week-end to see how many people will take part in these symbolic polls (let alone what the results of the general elections themselves will be), the students’ initiative seems to me already one more example of the potential of social media to facilitate political participation, if not always on such a (dramatic) scale as from 2010 in Egypt (see amongst others Mark Lynch’s After Egypt: the limits and promise of online challenges to the authoritarian Arab State, access restrictions possible), certainly in a fashion that proves how an even enthousiastic will to participate the electoral process still exists amid the disheartenment about the value of political commitment which seems at times to typify the attitude of a majority of (not only) the Italian people.

Picture comes from www.vogliovotare.org.

Football & racism: (2) Political discourse

30 Jan

This post is a follow-up to the previous one, where footballer Kevin-Prince Boateng’s walking off in protest at racist chanting, during a friendly match in Italy, gave me the opportunity to search LexisNexis for related English-language news, thus renewing my exploration of the international database of news resources. In order to switch from LexisNexis to other scholarly search tools, I decided to refocus the theme (‘football and racism’) on ‘political discourse’.


As showed by such initiatives as UK’s Show Racism the Red Card, there has been in recent years a growing concern in football (and other sports as well) about supporters’ discriminatory attitudes becoming more and more aggressive, not infrequently even against one’s own players: whereas my personal memories of Dutch middlefielder Aron Winter being booed by the (extreme-right) fans of his own Lazio Roma (1992-96) might only be vague (being myself not into football but always quite attentive to discriminatory issues), news from Russia are as recent as last december, with Zenit St Petersburg fans wanting black and gay players excluded from the team.

showracismtheredcard homophobiaWhat makes Boateng’s case specially interesting in this context is that, amongst the supporters responsible for the racist chanting against the German-Ghanaian player, the Councillor (NB: Youth affairs & Sport) from a nearby town has been identified: Riccardo Grittini, who has by now resigned from his position, is a member of the federalist and anti-immigration Northern-Italian party Lega Nord, whose overtly discriminatory language (both racially and sexually) distinguishes the party rhetoric from its very beginnings in the late 80s.

By which I come to the subject of the post: what kind of relation, if any, can be established between the use of discriminatory language in both (Italian) political rhetoric/propaganda and football/sport fandom? Has there any research been done on these possible relations?

For the sake of this blog’s scope I chose:

1) to translate the key concepts of my topic into the following (combination of) search terms (the search strings I used can be seen here):
“discriminatory language”
football OR sport
“political language” OR “political discourse” OR propaganda OR “political rhetoric”

2) to search with the above terms the following sources (access restrictions may apply outside the UvA-network) for peer-reviewed articles:
Communication & Mass Media Complete
Web of Science
ERIC, Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts, Sociological Abstracts and Worldwide Political Science Abstracts (through ProQuest search platform)

3) to mention here only the ten most relevant articles (judging from their abstracts) out of a total of about seventy I retrieved from the whole set of databases, preferring those available online through the UvA-Library (again, mind possible access restrictions). Newest to oldest:

Gripentrog, J. (2010). The transnational pastime: baseball and American perceptions of Japan in the 1930s. Diplomatic History, 34(2), 247-273.

Van Hilvoorde, I., Elling, A., & Stokvis, R. (2010). How to influence national pride? The Olympic medal index as a unifying narrative. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 45(1), 87-102. DOI: 10.1177/1012690209356989

Bonde, H. (2009). The great male cycle: sport, politics and European masculinity today. The International Journal of the History of Sport, 26(10), 1540-1554. DOI: 10.1080/09523360903057559

Toohey, K., & Taylor, T. (2006). ‘Here be dragons, here be savages, here be bad plumbing’: Australian media representations of sport and terrorism. Sport in Society, 9(1), 71-93. DOI: 10.1080/17430430500355816

Brick, N., & Wilks, C. (2002). Les partis politiques et la féminisation des noms de métier. Journal of French Language Studies, 12(01), 43-53. DOI: 10.1017/S0959269502000133

Delgado, F. (1999). Sport and politics major league soccer, constitution, and (the) Latino audience(s). Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 23(1), 41-54. DOI: 10.1177/0193723599231004

Veri, M. J. (1999). Homophobic discourse surrounding the female athlete. Quest, 51(4), 355-368. DOI: 10.1080/00336297.1999.10491691

Muñoz, F. G. H., & Romero, F. G. (1996). Metáforas del deporte en los discursos políticos de Demóstenes. Cuadernos de Filología Clásica. Estudios griegos e indoeuropeos, 6, 107.

Semino, E., & Masci, M. (1996). Politics is football: metaphor in the discourse of Silvio Berlusconi in Italy. Discourse & Society, 7(2), 243-269. DOI: 10.1177/0957926596007002005

Strenk, A. (1979). What price victory? The world of international sports and politics. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 445(1), 128-140.

Somehow it didn’t come as a surprise that by far the most often cited of these articles is Semino & Masci’s from 1996, dealing with (football) metaphors in the political discourse of Italian former Prime Minister (and president of football team AC Milan) Silvio Berlusconi. Neither was I much surprised by the sheer variety of research scopes – from Ancient Greek to 1930s America, from gender issues to the Olympic Games – that even such a limited search for literature revealed as far as sport, racism (discriminatory language) and political discourse are concerned.

The afore-mentioned variety is in fact a confirmation both of the richness of academic research and of the need for conceiving and developing an appropriate topic, keeping in mind that I can gradually rephrase it according to the resources I (don’t) discover, and knowing how important academic search tools can be in the process.

Art and politics (3): searching for literature

29 Nov

«What role have minority rights claims (i.e. ethnic, sexual) played in promoting murals and graffiti art from 1970 to the present day in the United States?» This being the research question, what are its key concepts? What about ‘minorities’, ‘graffiti’, ‘1970-2012’ and ‘USA’? How do I devise appropriate search terms for each key concept?

Systematic search
Via the UvA-Library homepage I can access several databases, among others Sociological Abstracts and Worldwide Political Science Abstracts. These two resources can be searched simultaneously and will prove useful in devising search terms.

When searching for ‘minorities’, the databases retrieve both a publications’ list and two lists of related subjects (see screenshot). In the case of ‘minorities’, the subjects lists suggest such diverse terms as “ethnic groups”, immigrants, “black americans”, females, homosexuality, discrimination, “racial differences”, “human rights”, citizenship and assimilation. As diverse are the terms suggested by the databases when searching for graffiti.

How far I go selecting and using terms from these lists depends on the aim of my research, whether I only need a couple of publications or I want to perform an exhaustive search, for example when writing my thesis. The most important to keep in mind, however, is that I can use these terms not only when searching Sociological Abstracts and Worldwide Political Science Abstracts: most search tools allow to combine two or more terms (with AND, OR and NOT) or two or more searches (with ‘search history’), and to perform phrase searching (“ethnic groups” will retrieve the two words only when appearing next to each other as a phrase).

The references I find by ‘playing’ with both the different search terms and the different search options will help me further in finding additional literature. One of the peer reviewed articles I find in Sociological Abstracts and Worldwide Political Science Abstracts is the following: Collins, L.G. (2006). Activists who yearn for art that transforms: parallels in the black arts and feminist art movements in the United States. Signs, 31, 717-752. Its bibliography helps me tracking down earlier (=before 2006) relevant publications.

Some databases, however, allow me to track down also later (=after 2006) relevant publications, that is finding out what articles have cited an article after publication. The outstanding database for citation tracking is Web of Science: if I search Collins’ article in Web of Science, I will find that it has recently been cited in the following: Moravec, M. (2012). Toward a history of feminism, art, and social movements in the United States. Frontiers, 33(2), 22-54.

Just as with systematic search, it’s up to me and the aim of my literature research to decide when to stop snowballing. It is important, however, to keep in mind that I can gradually rephrase my topic also according to the resources I (don’t) discover.

Photo of Men snowballing on capitol steps – Tallahassee, Florida belongs to Florida Memory, the central repository for the Florida State Government.

Art and politics (2): Massimo Mila to graffiti

31 Oct

How to move from such a broad topic as ‘art and politics’ to a proper research question?

Firstly, thinking of one of my own ‘personal icons’, Italian musicologist, mountaineer and member of the resistance during WWII, Massimo Mila, I have chosen for a shift towards ‘artists and intellectuals’ political activism’.

Secondly, considering that an appropriate topic should give answers to such questions as, amongst others, who, what, where, when, how and why, I have searched for some inspiration in both the International Encyclopedia of Communication and the International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences (online available through the UvA-Library: restrictions may apply outside the UvA-network).

Even the quickest glance at these subject-specific encyclopaedias can provide answers to some of the aforementioned questions. Searching for ‘artist’ and ‘activism’, the International Encyclopedia of Communication retrieves amongst others the entries ‘art as communication’ and ‘graffiti’, whose ‘See also’ sections further refer to related headwords such as ‘propaganda, visual communication of’ and ‘collective action and communication’.

Graffiti and street artists’ motives for action being a quite controversial issue (both in art-historical and socio-political terms), a research question I would like to work on could be the following: «What role have minority rights claims (i.e. ethnic, sexual) played in promoting murals and graffiti art from 1970 to the present day in the United States?»

Having an idea of what minority identity meant for the street art production of such painters as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, and mostly keeping in mind that I can gradually rephrase my topic according to the resources I discover while searching, I set to the following steps of identifying the key concepts of my research question, devising search terms for each concept, and use these terms to search for scholarly literature in appropriate information sources: these all being the subject of a next (and last one on ‘art and politics’) post.

Photo’s: Massimo Mila’s was taken in 1935 in Turin’s prison when he was arrested on the charge of antifascism. Amsterdam Street Art‘s website provided the graffiti’s pic.

Art and politics (1): Obama to Titian (and back)

15 Oct

When shortly addressing the (possible) relations between art and sociology or (political) communication in the previous post, I had already in mind to further develop the topic, i.e. focusing on art and politics only.

If I am to think of a work of art in terms of political content, this will then usually be Titian‘s Pesaro Altarpiece in the Venetian church of the Frari, despite how surprising it may sound. Next to my personal passion for the Renaissance master (at his best in the Pesaro’s), it is the way the altarpiece conveys its political message to us, 21st century viewers, that appeals to me as far as ‘art and politics’ are concerned. To give you some clues before moving ahead from art history to searching for information: the turbaned man on the extreme left is led as a prisoner to Mary’s throne by the armoured warrior (possibly a member of the Pesaro’s family, Titian’s patrons), who is bearing a banner that displays both the papal and the Pesaro’s arms together with olive leaves (to read more about the painting’s symbolism you can have a look at Rona Goffen’s «Piety and patronage in Renaissance Venice», also available at the UvA-Library).

Whereas it may appear subtle to us, Titian’s political message was as straightforward as possible for the 16th century public, just as – to name two well-known 20th century examples – Leni Riefenstahl‘s and Sergei Eisenstein‘s films are to us. Which, next to making a point about the possible coexistence of creative and technical prowess with abhorred ideologies (be it a 16th century enslaved enemy or Nazism and Communism’s crimes), finally brings me to the crucial question: is it art and politics, art and propaganda or – like in Artists for Obama 2012‘s case (again, see my previous post) – the political commitment of art(ists) the topic I wish to research?

The answer to this question will be the subject of the next post 🙂

P.S.: Titian’s altarpiece reproduction comes from the Web Gallery of Art, Riefenstahl’s and Eisenstein’s photo’s from St. James Press’ «International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers», online available through the UvA-Library (restrictions may therefore apply outside the UvA-network; the same might be true for the «Oxford Art Online»‘s page about Titian, hyperlinked to above in the text).

Bibliocw-soc two years old!

27 Sep

Of course I couldn’t let this birthday go unmentioned and – together with my warm thanks (GRAZIE! BEDANKT!) to the 57 followers and 5.263 visitors so far – what a better way to do it than by addressing (shortly: more will follow soon) the (possible) relations between art and sociology or (political) communication, that is: addressing the subject areas I’m daily working on both within and without the UvA. Please have a look at:

Natalya Pershina-Yakimanskaya’s Wings of Migrants, a video installation realized in collaboration with Olga Sezneva, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the UvA, currently on view at the Akinci gallery in Amsterdam.

Artists for Obama 2012, an initiative of several distinguished American artists (Chuck Close, Frank Gehry, Jasper Johns, Bruce Nauman and Richard Serra to name some of the best-known) to aid Obama’s campaign for re-election. Here below Chris Burden‘s poetic screenprint Married (from Artists for Obama 2012 website).