Jonas Staal: Propaganda Art from the 20th to the 21st Century (2018)

26 July 2018, dusan

“This study by artist Jonas Staal explores the development of propaganda art from the 20th to the 21st century. Staal defines propaganda as the performance of power by means of the equation propaganda = power + performance. Through his work as a propaganda researcher and practice as a propaganda artist, he argues that different structures of power generate different forms of propaganda and therefore different forms of propaganda art. Whereas in the context of the 20th century Staal discusses the differences between avant-garde, totalitarian, and modernist propaganda art, in the 21st century he proposes the categories of War on Terror Propaganda Art, Popular Propaganda Art, and Stateless Propaganda Art. By means of concrete examples of artists and artworks within each of these categories, he attempts to show how the performance of power in the 21st century translates into different visual forms, and how they shape and direct our reality. Staal’s study shows that power and art exist in continuous interaction. Propaganda and propaganda art are not terms that only refer to the past, but concepts and practices through which we can understand the construction of reality in the present.”

PhD Dissertation, Faculty of Humanities, University of Leiden
Open access
425 pages

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Video (12 min)

Cultural Anthropology: Lessons for Liberalism from the “Illiberal East” (2018)

29 April 2018, dusan

“The cumulative effects of Brexit, the resurgence of populist politics in Europe, and the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States have given rise to the perception that Western liberal democracies are undergoing profound change, if not a bona fide crisis. Moreover, there is a sense that it is the political liberalism of the post–Cold War period—rather than its far less popular companion ideology of neoliberalism—that finds itself in disarray. As scholars and commentators rummage through their intellectual toolboxes for explanatory frameworks, many are turning to (post)socialist histories and experiences as heuristic devices for making sense of the upheavals in Western politics. In this Hot Spots series, we suggest that the postsocialist transition, as both discursive space and set of practices that attempted to make capitalists out of socialists and liberals out of totalitarians, renders the former socialist world a rich site for understanding the current shifts in the Western political landscape. We aim to make sense of this landscape in a way that is attuned to both long-term processes and to the state of emergency reinforced with each new wave of current events. Even though the ground appears to be constantly shifting beneath our feet, these essays insist that detailed, historically and geopolitically sensitive analysis of actually existing post–Cold War liberalisms is one key approach for making sense of the present.”

Edited by Dace Dzenovska and Larisa Kurtović
Publisher Society for Cultural Anthropology, Apr 2018
Hot Spots series
ISSN 1548-1360

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Felix Stalder: The Digital Condition (2016–)

25 March 2018, dusan

“Our daily lives, our culture and our politics are now shaped by the digital condition as large numbers of people involve themselves in contentious negotiations of meaning in ever more dimensions of life, from the trivial to the profound. They are making use of the capacities of complex communication infrastructures, currently dominated by social mass media such as Twitter and Facebook, on which they have come to depend.

Amidst a confusing plurality, Felix Stalder argues that are three key constituents of this condition: the use of existing cultural materials for one’s own production, the way in which new meaning is established as a collective endeavour, and the underlying role of algorithms and automated decision-making processes that reduce and give shape to massive volumes of data. These three characteristics define what Stalder calls ‘the digital condition’. Stalder also examines the profound political implications of this new culture. We stand at a crossroads between post-democracy and the commons, a concentration of power among the few or a genuine widening of participation, with the digital condition offering the potential for starkly different outcomes.

This ambitious and wide-ranging theory of our contemporary digital condition will be of great interest to students and scholars in media and communications, cultural studies, and social, political and cultural theory, as well as to a wider readership interested in the ways in which culture and politics are changing today.”

First published in German as Kultur der Digitalität, Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin, 2016.

Translated by Valentine Pakis
Publisher Polity Press, Cambridge, UK, 2018
ISBN 9781509519590, 1509519599
xi+204 pages

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