The Revolution Will be Uploaded: Vernacular Video and the Arab Spring
Keywords:Ivan Illich, Judith Butler, revolution, Arab Spring, YouTube, online video, vernacular, Libya
The vernacular online videos produced by the Arab revolutions constitute an un-precedented (though not unproblematic) historical resource for understanding the subjective experience of the ordinary people who find themselves on the front line of revolutionary struggle. But they also effect a sea-change in the way in which we view and understand YouTube itself. This article argues that the political significance of these videos lies less in their explicit content, than in their aesthetics - that is, in the new formal and sensory propositions that they constitute, the ways in which they “redistribute the sensible” (Rancière).
The prologue proposes, following Judith Butler, that “the people” who are the subject of history are essentially a performative event, rather than a pre-existing entity, and that to write about revolution therefore requires a performative and allegorical approach. The first section reviews the current academic notion of “vernacular video” in the light of Ivan Illich’s work of the early 1980s on vernacular language and values, and argues that a stronger, more political conception of the vernacular is necessary to do justice to these works. The second section offers a close reading of one particular video from the Libyan uprising, and argues that it offers less an example, than an allegory of the dialogical relationship between the individual and the collective that defines the moral economy of the vernacular. The article concludes by proposing that the right response to such videos is not (just) more theory or criticism, but rather to seek to emulate their radically egalitarian forms of practice.
p>Adonis (2011): “Il n’y pas eu de révolution arabe”, interview with Mohamad Choueir, Books, 26 September 2011: http://www.myboox.fr/actualite/adonis-il-n-y-pas-eu-de-revolution-arabe–9449.html (accessed 15 May 2013).
Aouragh, Myriam & Anne Alexander (2011): “The Egyptian Experience: Sense and Nonsense of the Internet Revolution”, International Journal of Communication, 5, 1344-1358.
Bamyeh, Mohammed (2011): “Anarchist, Liberal and Authoritarian Enlightenments: Notes From the Arab Spring”, Jadaliyya, 30 July 2011:
http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/2268/anarchist-liberal-and-authoritarian-enlightenments (accessed 30 August 2012).
Burgess, Jean (2007): “Vernacular Creativity and New Media”, PhD diss., Queensland University of Technology.
Burgess, Jean & Joshua Green (2009): YouTube. Online Video and Participatory Culture, Cambridge: Polity.
Butler, Judith (2011): “Bodies in Alliance and the Politics of the Street”: http://www.eipcp.net/transversal/1011/butler/en (accessed 31 July 2013)
Butler, Judith (2013): “‘Nous, le peuple’: réflexions sur la liberté de réunion”, Alain Badiou, Pierre Bourdieu, Judith Butler, Georges Didi-Huberman, Sadri Khiari & Jacques Rancière (eds): Qu’est-ce qu’un peuple?, Paris: La Fabrique.
Campanelli, Vito (2013): “The Framing Act”, presentation at Video Vortex #9, Lüneburg, 1 March 2013: http://interlace.videovortex9.net (accessed 27 January 2014).
Cayley, David (1992): Ivan Illich In Conversation, Toronto: Anansi.
Colla, Elliott (2012): “The People Want”, Middle East Report, 263: http://www.merip.org/mer/mer263/people-want (accessed 19 June 2013)
El-Desouky, Ayman A. (2011): “Heterologies of revolutionary action: On historical consciousness and the sacred in Mahfouz’s Children of the Alley”, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 47:4, 428–439. DOI: 10.1080/17449855.2011.590319
Ellul, Jacques (1969/2008): L’Autopsie de la revolution, Paris: La Table Ronde.
Esteva, Gustavo & Madhu Suri Prakhash (1998): Grassroots Postmodernism, London: Zed Books.
Figurt, Albert (2009): “Notre-Cam de Paris”, presentation at Video Vortex #5, Brussels, 21 November 2009: http://vimeo.com/7831987 (accessed 25 March 2013).
Gregory, Sam & Elizabeth Losh (2012): “Remixing Human Rights: Rethinking Civic Expression, Representation and Personal Security in Online Video”, First Monday, 17:8: http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4104/3279 (accessed 18 June 2013). DOI: 10.5210/fm.v17i8.4104
Gregson, Nicky (2011): “Performativity, Corporeality and the Politics of Ship Disposal”, Journal of Cultural Economy, 4:2, 137-156. DOI: 10.1080/17530350.2011.563067
Hertz, Robert (1909): “La prééminence de la main droite. Étude sur la polarité religieuse”, Revue philosophique de la France et de l’Etranger, 68, 553-580.
Illich, Ivan (1971): Deschooling Society, London: Calder and Boyars.
Illich, Ivan (1981): Shadow Work, Salem/London: Marion Boyars.
Illich, Ivan (1982): Gender, New York: Pantheon Books.
Illich, Ivan (1983): “Silence is a commons”, The CoEvolution Quarterly, Winter 1983: http://www.davidtinapple.com/illich/1983_silence_commons.html (accessed 31 July 2013).
James, Sandra (2012): “Tripoli Under Seige: A Mother’s Account, part 1”, Shabab Libya, 19 February 2012: http://www.shabablibya.org/news/tripoli-under-siege-a-mothers-account-part-1 (accessed 31 July 2013).
Kahn, Richard & Douglas Kellner (2007): “Paulo Freire and Ivan Illich: Technology, Politics and the Reconstruction of Education”, Policy Futures in Education, 5:4, 431–448. DOI: 10.2304/pfie.2007.5.4.431
Klimke, Martin & Joachim Scharloth (2009): “Utopia in Practice: The Discovery of Performativity in Sixties’ Protest, Arts and Sciences”, Historein, 9, 46-56.
Kropotkine, Pierre (1909/2011): La Grande Révolution (1789-1793). Une lecture originale de la Révolution française, Paris: Editions du Sextant.
Law, John (2004): After Method: Mess in Social Science Research, London: Routledge.
Le Grice, Malcolm (2001): Experimental Cinema in the Digital Age, London: British Film Institute.
Levi, Jennifer L., (2012): Foreword to “Symposium: Radical Nemesis: Re-Envisioning Ivan Illich’s Theories on Social Institutions Foreword”, Western New England Law Review, 34:2, 341-350.
Liebhardt, John (2011): “Libya: ‘They Were Shooting Us Randomly’ (Videos)”, Global Voices Online, 25 February 2011: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2011/02/25/libya-they-were-shooting-us-randomly-videos/ (accessed 31 July 2013).
Mackey, Clarke (2010): Random Acts of Culture: Reclaiming Art and Community in the 21st Century, Toronto: Between the Lines.
Mather, Victor & Robert Mackey (2011): “Feb. 26: Updates on Libya’s Revolt and Mideast Protests”, The Lede, 26 February 2011: http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/26/latest-updates-on-libyas-revolt-and-mideast-protests/?_r=1 (accessed 31 July 2013).
Michel, Louise (1886): Mes Mémoires, Paris: Keva.
Mol, Annemarie (1999): “Ontological Politics: A Word and Some Questions”, John Law & John Hassard (eds), Actor Network Theory and After, Oxford and Keele: Blackwell and the Sociological Review, 74–89.
Mroué, Rabih (2013): “The Pixelated Revoluion”, Image(s), mon amour. Fabrications, Madrid: CA2M, 378-393.
O’Dwyer, Rachel & Linda Doyle (2012): “This is not a Bit-Pipe: A Political Economy of the Substrate Network”, The Fibreculture Journal, 20, 10-32: http://twenty.fibreculturejournal.org/2012/06/18/fcj-138-this-is-not-a-bit-pipe-a-political-economy-of-the-substrate-network/ (accessed 12 May 2013).
Rancière, Jacques (1983/2007): Le Philosophe et ses pauvres, Paris: Flammarion.
Rancière, Jacques (2000): Le partage du sensible. Esthétique et politique, Paris: La Fabrique.
Savona, Stefano et al. (2012): “Voir la révolution”, Cahiers du cinéma, 675, February 2012, 76–81.
Sherman, Tom (2008): “Vernacular Video”, Geert Lovink & Sabine Niederer (eds), Video Vortex Reader. Responses to YouTube, Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 161–172.
Strangelove, Michael (2010): Watching YouTube: Extraordinary Videos by Ordinary People, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Thompson, E.P. (1963): The Making of the English Working Class, London: Victor Gollancz.
Tolstoy, Leo (1896/1982): War and Peace, tr. Rosemary Edmonds, London: Penguin Classics.
Tormey, Simon (2006): “‘Not in my Name’: Deleuze, Zapatismo and the Critique of Representation”, Parliamentary Affairs, 59, 1-17.
Tormey, Simon (2012): “Occupy Wall Street: From Representation to Post-Representation”, Journal of Critical Globalisation Studies, 5, 132-137.
Van de Sande, Mathijs (2013): “The Prefigurative Politics of Tahrir Square – An Alternative Perspective on the 2011 Revolutions”, Res Publica, published online 14 March 2013: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11158–013–9215–9 (accessed 4 May 2013).
Wall, Melissa & Sahar El-Zahed (2011): “‘I’ll Be Waiting for You Guys’: A YouTube Call to Action in the Egyptian Revolution”, International Journal of Communication, 5, 1333–1343.
Winslow (2013): “Overgrowth”, New Scare City, 16 June 2013: http://backpalm.blogspot.be/2013/06/overgrowth.html (accessed 19 June 2013).
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2014 Snowdon
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Copyright for all manuscripts rests with the author(s). The editors reserve the right to edit manuscripts. Contributors are responsible for acquiring all permissions from the copyright owners for the use of quotations, illustrations, tables, etc. Each author must, before final publication fill, in a publishing agreement provided by LiU E-Press.
Since 2021 Culture Unbound uses a Creative Commons: Attribution license for new articles, which allows users to distribute the work and to reform or build upon it without the author's permission. Full reference to the author must be given. For older articles please see each article landing page.