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Doing Democracy

Activist Art and Cultural Politics

Nancy S. Love, Mark Mattern

Publication Year: 2013

Demonstrates how activists and others use art and popular culture to strive for a more democratic future.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-x

We would like to thank our editor at SUNY Press, Beth Bouloukos, and her assistant, Rafael Chaiken, for their assistance in bringing this project to fruition. We would also like to thank the progressive scholars and activists of the Caucus for a New Political Science for demonstrating that activism and scholarly rigor are compatible....

Part I Introduction

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Chapter 1Introduction

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pp. 3-26

Along with the political speeches and the oath of office, the historic inauguration of Barack Obama as the first African American president of the United States featured music, poetry, and prayer. We believe that this signaled a propitious moment to inquire whether these alternative and aesthetic modes of public discourse prefigure a more democratic future....

Part II Photography and Cartoons

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Chapter 2 Photo-Activism in the Digital Age

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pp. 29-52

In 1927, Siegfried Kracauer argued that in the illustrated magazines flourishing at the time, “people see the very world that the illustrated magazines prevent them from perceiving.” Kracauer separated visual information from knowledge production: “Never before has an age been so informed about itself. . . . Never before has a period known so little...

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Chapter 3 Framing the Obama Political Cartoons

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pp. 53-72

Often denigrated as non-serious art, cartoons have a complex relation with democracy and violence. Recent years have seen the controversy with the Muhammad cartoons published in a Danish newspaper (September 2005) that led to heated debate, worldwide protests, and resulted in one hundred deaths. Seen as tacky and racist by its critics, the cartoons ...

Part III Monuments and Memorials

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Chapter 4 The Moral Economy

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pp. 75-96

The 1960s and 1970s marked a pivotal period in U.S. history, when Latinos and other people of color were collectively engaged in struggles to gain civil rights, public recognition, and respect within mainstream Anglo society. Blossoming in the 1970s (with roots going back to the 1930s), the Chicano1 Movement began in California and the American Southwest as ...

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Chapter 5 The National D-Day Memorial

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pp. 97-118

This study evaluates art as a means of ?doing democracy? by reconsidering the cultural politics surrounding the creation of a World War II battle memorial in the United States of America - namely, the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. Both as a local civic monument to nationalist values and as a public historical artifact of American nationalism, ...

Part IV Literature and Poetry

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Chapter 6 The Message in the Medium

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pp. 121-142

It is debatable whether or not American poets have ever been able to count on the “great audiences” identified by Whitman as essential for good poetry. But one thing is certain: The twentieth century saw a slow, steady decline of interest among most Americans in poetry. While earlier generations saw poets as important literary and public voices, with their ...

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Chapter 7 Tragedy and Democracy

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pp. 143-174

In the current climate of global insecurity, liberal democratic values have fallen into a crisis. Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, lawmakers and the general public in the United States expressed their willingness to set aside concerns for liberty, justice, and human rights in the quest for greater security.1 This chapter contends that the arts, ...

Part VMusic

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Chapter 8 “You’re an American rapper,so what do you know?”

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pp. 177-200

The election of President Barack Obama in 2008 provided a vivid illustration of the intimate link between popular culture, especially popular music, and politics. The campaign was marked by will.i.am’s musical reworking of Obama’s “Yes We Can” speech, and the inauguration celebrations were led by the good and great of Hollywood and the music...

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Chapter 9Playing with Hate

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pp. 201-228

The official biography of Ian Stuart Donaldson, lead singer of the racist skinhead band Skrewdriver, opens with the following description of how the band’s music affected its author, who is known only as Benny:...

Part VI Theater

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Chapter 10 Betrayed by Democracy

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pp. 231-256

Times of war are often times when democratic debates are under siege. The apparent necessity to ward off an enemy and secure the nation’s survival can trigger a state of exception: a partial suspension of crucial democratic rights and practices for the sake of national security. In the context of the War on Terror that followed the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001,...

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Chapter 11 Political Actors

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pp. 257-286

Pluralist democracies take as given that difference is the very stuff of politics—that dominant meanings, values, and ways of life and the political relations they maintain do not account for all citizens, and alternative possibilities might yet prove legitimate, viable, even preferable. As such, democracy requires that we not only make space for diverse ways of...

Part VII Festival and Spectacle

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Chapter 12 Art in the House

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pp. 289-314

Melanie Joseph’s comment summarizes one influential view of the relationship between art and politics—the activist’s view that in the twentieth century was closely associated with the German playwright Bertolt Brecht, among others.1 As I began this essay, Joseph was involved in a theater production in Brooklyn, New York, that was in the Brechtian...

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Chapter 13 Democracy despite Government

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pp. 315-336

Following Michael Jackson’s death, New Orleanians staged a parade in his honor. After Katrina in January 2006, the Black Men of Labor (BMOL) sponsored a parade that began on St. Claude Avenue, running through the Ninth Ward and ending on Claiborne Avenue, a main thoroughfare through African American neighborhoods that was destroyed as a commercial...

Part VIII Conclusion

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Chapter 14Conclusion

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pp. 339-366

In this concluding chapter we take a closer look at an increasingly important form of activist art: intentional, directed attempts to use art to drive community development. Many neighborhoods, cities, states, and even nations are turning to the arts and culture as a stimulus for community...


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pp. 367-370


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pp. 371-386

Back Cover

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pp. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9781438449128
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438449111

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 862933437
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Doing Democracy

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Artists -- Political activity.
  • Democracy and the arts.
  • Politics in art.
  • Popular culture -- Political aspects.
  • Arts -- Political aspects.
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