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Paper: The anthropology of digital visuality

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Budka, P. (2018). The anthropology of digital visuality: Notes on comparison, context and relationality. Paper at Vienna Anthropology Days 2018 (VANDA2018), Vienna, Austria: University of Vienna, 20 September.

Sociocultural anthropology provides theoretical approaches and concepts to comparatively study local life-worlds, to contextualize cultural meaning, and to (re)consider human/non-human and socio-technical relations that have been emerging with digital media technologies (e.g. Horst & Miller 2012, Moore 2012, Whitehead & Wesch 2012). Ethnography and ethnographic fieldwork, as methodological tools, allow for investigating digital practices and processes by considering the above aspects (Pink et al. 2016). For anthropology it is of particular interest how people engage on a day-to-day basis with digital media and technologies, internet-based devices and services, mobile computing as well as software applications and digital platforms.

In this paper, I discuss, from an anthropological perspective and through brief ethnographic examples, digital visuality as a contemporary phenomenon that constitutes emerging patterns of visual communication and culture. In addition, I am briefly discussing digital visuality as a concept to approach and investigate the visual in digital times.

Digital media technologies and mobile networked devices, such as smart phones, have become ubiquitous means of visual production, communication and representation (e.g. Gómez Cruz et al. 2017). Moreover, digital platforms and social media services, such as YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, are utilized to share and consume visual artefacts. Constituting and changing thus communicative practices and visual culture alike. Consequently, these transformation processes provide new challenges and possibilities for the anthropological and ethnographic study of the visual (e.g. Pink 2011).
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Panel: “Digital Visuality” @ VANDA 2018

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PANEL “DIGITAL VISUALITY” @ Vienna Anthropology Days (VANDA) 2018 (September 19-22, 2018)

Convenors:
Elke Mader & Philipp Budka

Thursday, 20 September
11:00-17:00
Room 4 (New Institute Building (NIG) of the University of Vienna, Universitätsstraße 7)

Paper Presentations:
(Timetable)

Philipp Budka: The Anthropology of Digital Visuality: Notes on Comparison, Context and Relationality

Harjant Gill: Introduction to Multimodal Anthropologies

Petr Nuska: “Changing the Equipment or Changing the Perspective?” – Exploring Film and Video Approach in Visual Ethnography

Katja Müller: Contemporary Photography in India – Post-media Aesthetics, Traditional Art and Economic Professionalism

Uschi Klein: What Does a Photograph Really Tell Us? The Photography of Young Male Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Fatma Sagir: “We Can See Your Hair, Dina!” – Muslim Female Embodiments of Digital Visibilities

Nadia Molek: Argentinian Slovenians Online: Facebook Groups of Slovenian Descendants in Argentina as Mediators of Identity Performances and Rituals
(via Skype)

Daria Radchenko: Digital Anthropology and/or Digital Traces: Seeing the City Through the Eyes of Locals

Elke Mader: Mediating the Krampus: Digital Visuality, Ritual and Cultural Performance

VANDA 2018 Full Program

Review: Digital environments: Ethnographic perspectives across global online and offline spaces

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Budka, P. (2018). [Review of the book Digital environments: Ethnographic perspectives across global online and offline spaces, by U. U. Frömming, S. Köhn, S. Fox & M. Terry]. Anthropos, 113(1), 303-304.

The edited volume “Digital Environments: Ethnographic Perspectives Across Global Online and Offline Spaces” is a collection of 16 essays by students and graduates of the M.A. Programme in Visual and Media Anthropology at the Free University Berlin. This is the first special feature of the book. The second is the anthropological and ethnographic perspective from which the individual texts discuss a diversity of digital technologies, platforms, services as well as related sociocultural phenomena, events and practices. As Sarah Pink in the book’s foreword notes, these texts and the underlying projects “focus on central issues of the discipline … through the prism of visual and media anthropology” (p. 10). Being not part of the anthropological mainstream, this visual and media anthropology perspective holds the potential of providing exiting new insights in digital culture and our increasingly digitalised societies. The digital ethnography perspective, on the other hand, focuses on “the ways in which technologies have become inseparable from other materialities and human activities” including ethnographic fieldwork, as Urte Undine Frömming, Steffen Köhn, Samantha Fox and Mike Terry note in the introduction chapter (p. 15).
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Paper: Indigenous articulations in the digital age

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Budka, P. (2018). Indigenous articulations in the digital age: Reflections on historical developments, activist engagements and mundane practices. Paper at International Communication Association 2018 Pre-Conference “Articulating Voice. The Expressivity and Performativity of Media Practice”, Prague, Czech Republic: Hilton, 24 May. Full Paper (PDF)

The relationship between indigenous people and digital media technologies is ambivalent and enthusiastic at the same time; reflecting individual experiences and expectations as well as collective sociocultural contexts and developments. Considering indigenous people’s colonial history and colonization’s continuing effects on indigenous communities, it is not surprising that many indigenous representatives are particularly concerned about issues of power, control, and ownership related to digital technologies and new ways of knowledge production, circulation, and representation (e.g., Ginsburg, 2008).

There is a strong sense of sociopolitical activism and agency in indigenous people’s collective engagements with digital media technologies which are closely connected to the (re)construction and mediation of cultural identity, cultural articulation, social intervention, and self-determination. At the same time, indigenous people’s digital practices are related to mundane necessities of everyday communication, social networking, family bonding, or self-expression. To understand indigenous articulations in the digital age, the collective and the individual dimension need to be considered.

Idle No More Twitter Account
Screenshot: Idle No More Twitter Account, 2018

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Panel: The Digital Turn: New Directions in Media Anthropology [Media Anthropology Network]

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The EASA Media Media Anthropology Network is organizing a panel at the 15th European Association of Social Anthropologists Biennial Conference in Stockholm, 14-17 August 2018.

The Digital Turn: New Directions in Media Anthropology [Media Anthropology Network]”
Convenors:
Philipp Budka (University of Vienna)
Elisabetta Costa (University of Groningen)
Sahana Udupa (Ludwig Maximilian University)

This panel recognizes the digital turn as a paradigm shift in the anthropological study of media, and aims to push further the ethnographic knowledge into the role that digital media play in people’s everyday life and broader sociopolitical transformations.

  • What’s New? Turns, Re-turns in Digitalization of Danish Right-wing Online Vitriol Language
    Peter Hervik (Aalborg University)
  • Extreme Speech: Online Media Cultures as a Context for Right-Wing Politics
    Sahana Udupa (Ludwig Maximilian University Munich)
  • Populist Masculine Domination in the Moments of Trump and Brexit: On the importance of Big <-> Thick Description
    Bryce Peake (University of Maryland)
  • Rethinking Women’s Agency and Digital Media in the Middle East
    Elisabetta Costa (University of Groningen)
  • Gendering Chinese Digital Media Politics
    Samuel Lengen (Anglia Ruskin University)
  • Gender, Kinship and Mediation in Rural West Bengal, India
    Sirpa Tenhunen (University of Helsinki)
  • An Ethnography of Young People`s Gender Negotiations in Everyday Digital (Sexual) Peer Cultures
    Irene Arends (University of Amsterdam)
  • The Material Dimension of Digital Visuality: Anthropological Possibilities, Challenges and Futures
    Philipp Budka (University of Vienna)
  • Matters of Similarity: Affordances of Digital Visualities
    Christoph Bareither (Humboldt-University Berlin)
  • Digital Visualities Disrupted – Local Photographers in Aleppo and the Shifting Infrastructures of War
    Nina Grønlykke Mollerup (University of Copenhagen)

Seminar: Indigenous Media 2018

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For the 4th time I am organizing the seminar “Indigenous Media” for the MA Program Visual and Media Anthropology at the Free University Berlin.

In this course, students are introduced to indigenous media technologies by actively discussing in 10 units/sessions different questions, issues and problems:

  • How do indigenous people produce, distribute and utilize audiovisual media?
  • How has ethnographic and anthropological film making changed through indigenous media?
  • What role do politics, power, globalization and (post-)colonialism play in the production, distribution and consumption of indigenous media?
  • How do indigenous people utilize media to construct and negotiate their individual and collective identities?
  • How are indigenous cultures and languages represented through media?
  • How do indigenous people appropriate and (co-)develop digital media technologies?

We start our seminar with the contextualization of indigenous media within an anthropology of media. In the second unit students are introduced to selected debates about the meaning and relevance of (mass) media for indigenous people and their sociocultural life worlds. We then discuss ethnographic film making and visual anthropology in the context of indigenous people’s changing role from “objects” for ethnographic films to partners in (collaborative) media projects. The fourth unit deals with (post-)colonialism and decolonization and their implications for indigenous media. This discussion leads us to the self-controlled production of indigenous media and its relevance for issues such as (self-)representation, appropriation, control and empowerment. Globalization, modernity and related questions of collective indigenous identity construction are the topics of the sixth unit. The following three sessions are closely connected, discussing aspects of identity, community, networking, ownership, activism, empowerment, aesthetics, poetics and popular culture in relation to indigenous media. In the final unit, students learn about the significance of digital technologies and infrastructures for indigenous people.

Through several case studies, students are introduced to the similarities and differences of indigenous media projects throughout the world. These case studies take us to different regions, countries and continents: from Nunavut, Canada and the United States to the Caribbean, Guatemala, Mexico and Brazil, to Nigeria, Myanmar, Australia and Finland. The seminar’s assignments include the preparation of an essay at the end of the seminar and short weekly literature and film reviews/critiques as well as an active contribution to discussions during the online sessions, which are organized with the online conference tool Adobe Connect.

Call for Papers: “Digital Visuality” – Vienna Anthropology Days (VANDA 2018)

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VIENNA ANTHROPOLOGY DAYS (VANDA 2018)
September 19-22, 2018

Call for Papers
Session “Digital Visuality”

Prof. Dr. Elke Mader and Dr. Philipp Budka
(Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna)

Presentations in English or German, max. 15 min.
Abstract of 350 words: https://vanda.univie.ac.at/call-for-papers/
Deadline: 1 June 2018
Venue: New Institute Building (NIG) of the University of Vienna
Universitätsstraße 7, 1010 Vienna, Austria

Abstract

Visual communication and visual culture have been a research focus in social and cultural anthropology for quite some time (e.g. Banks & Ruby, 2011). With the advent of digital media and technologies, internet-based devices and services, mobile computing as well as software applications and digital platforms new opportunities and challenges have come to the forefront in anthropological research, education and communication of visuality (e.g. Pink, 2011). Digital media technologies have become ubiquitous means of visual communication, interaction and representation. For anthropology and its subdisciplines, such as digital, media and visual anthropology, it is of particular interest how people engage with digital media and technologies, how “the digital“ is embedded in everyday life and how it relates to different social practices and cultural processes in human societies. By considering changing sociocultural, political and economic contexts and through ethnographic fieldwork, a continuously growing number of anthropological projects is aiming for a better understanding of contemporary digital phenomena (e.g. Horst & Miller, 2012).
This session contributes to these endeavours by inviting papers that focus on the visuality and visual aspects of digital life and culture. Papers could present ethnographic studies and discuss some of the following questions:

  • What does “the digital” mean for visual anthropology and/or the (interdisciplinary) relationship between anthropological subdisciplines and other visual research fields?
  • How does visual anthropology provide new perspectives on digital visuality?
  • How do specific conceptual approaches contribute to the analysis and understanding of digital visuality (e.g. ritualization, performativity, representation, material culture, practice theory)?
  • What theoretical concepts and analytical categories of sociality can be used to study (differences of) visual culture?
  • How does digital visuality co-constitute and mediate cultural performances and rituals?
  • How do digital platforms and social media services, such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat, and related practices constitute and change (visual) communication?
  • How does digital visuality impact and redefine ethnographic research (e.g. research techniques, tools, ethics)?
  • What are possible futures for digital visual anthropology and ethnography?

For questions concerning this session, please contact philipp.budka@univie.ac.at
For questions concerning registration, abstract submission and hotel reservation, please contact congress@univie.ac.at

Conference: ICA 2018 Pre-Conference “Articulating Voice. The Expressivity and Performativity of Media Practices”

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International Communication Association (ICA) 2018 Pre-Conference “Articulating Voice. The Expressivity and Performativity of Media Practices”
May 24, 2018, Prague, Czech Republic

Conference Program
Book of Abstracts (PDF)

At this interdisciplinary conference, several papers in the field of media & digital anthropology are presented by researcher who are actively involved in the European Association of Social Anthropologists Media Anthropology Network:

  • Sahana Udupa, U of Munich, Germany: “Enterprise as practice: Fun and aggression in online political discourse”
  • Philipp Budka, U of Vienna, Austria: “Indigenous Articulations in the Digital Age: Reflections on Historical Developments, Activist Engagements and Mundane Practices”
  • Nina Grønlykke Mollerup & Mette Mortensen, U of Copenhagen, Denmark: “The Contested Visibility of War: Actors on the Ground Taking and Distributing Images from the War in Syria”

CfP: The Digital Turn: New Directions in Media Anthropology

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The EASA Media Anthropology Network is organising a network panel at the 15th EASA Biennial Conference “Staying, Moving, Settling” in Stockholm, 14-17 August, 2018.
Please find the Call for Papers below.
Deadline: 9 April 2018.

Convenors

Philipp Budka (University of Vienna)
Elisabetta Costa (University of Groningen)
Sahana Udupa (Ludwig Maximilian University)

Abstract

The digital turn in media anthropology signals the growing importance of digital media technologies in contemporary sociocultural, political and economic processes. This panel recognizes the digital turn as a paradigm shift in the anthropological study of media, and aims to foreground three important streams of exploration that constitute new directions in the anthropology of media.

The rise of online vitriol against vulnerable communities has punctured euphoric pronouncements about digital media as a radical enabler of grassroots democracy. A significant aspect of digital extreme speech is gender based violence in digital environments. Beyond the specific instances of online violence, gendering media anthropology remains a crucial and broader area of intervention. Similarly, different forms of digital visualities have accentuated the materialities that constitute everyday digital experiences and their varied cultural ramifications. Charting the three directions as gendering digital media, materialities of digital visualities and online extreme speech, this panel aims to push further the ethnographic knowledge into the role that digital media play in people’s everyday life and broader sociopolitical transformations.

We invite ethnographic and/or theoretical papers that focus either on
(1) the gendered dimension of digital practices and introduce innovative theoretical insights into the relationship between gender and the digital;
(2) extreme speech and online vitriol aimed at refugees, migrants, sexual minorities and other vulnerable communities, but online extreme speech as also a means for political contestation;
(3) material dimensions of digital visualities as constituting features of new ways of communication and interaction.

https://nomadit.co.uk/easa/easa2018/conferencesuite.php/panels/6386
https://www.easaonline.org/conferences/easa2018/cfp

Review: Handbuch der Medienethnographie

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Budka, P. (2017). [Review of the book Handbuch der Medienethnographie, by C. Bender & M. Zillinger]. Paideuma. Mitteilungen zur Kulturkunde, 63, 303-307.

Der Sammelband „Handbuch der Medienethnographie“ bietet einen Einblick in ein aufstrebendes und im deutschen Sprachraum noch zu wenig beachtetes Forschungsfeld. Ethnographie wird in diesem Buch vor allem als Methode in der qualitativen Medienforschung verstanden und die Autorinnen und Autoren, allesamt erfahren in der ethnographischen Feldforschung, wurden von der Herausgeberin Cora Bender und dem Herausgeber Martin Zillinger aufgefordert, individuell zu reflektieren, „wie sie selbst im Feld vorgegangen sind, um Medien und Medienpraktiken zu erforschen“ (xi). Diese Reflexion über die eigene Forschungspraxis ist laut Bender und Zillinger charakteristisch für die Ethnologie als „ethnographische Königsdisziplin“ (xii). Mittels dichter Beschreibungen aus unterschiedlichen ethnographischen Forschungsfeldern will der Band mit seinen Beiträgen auch die Verbindung zwischen Empirie und Theorie in der Ethnologie in den Blick nehmen. Schwerpunkte bleiben dabei die subjektiven Erfahrungen der Feldforscherinnen und Feldforscher als Fremde, die unter spezifischen Bedingungen in bestimmten Lokalitäten in Austausch mit Menschen treten, um die entsprechenden Interaktionsprozesse schließlich zu interpretieren.
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Anthropology & Open Access

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Open Access Logo, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Open_Access_logo_PLoS_white.svg

Anthropology and open access or “open anthropology” – selected resources, interviews and comments:

Anthropology Blogs 2017 & Open Anthropology

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A list of anthropology blogs collected by Jason Antrosio of “Living Anthropologically”:
https://www.livinganthropologically.com/anthropology-blogs-2017/
Including the new anthropology group blog anthro{dendum}, formerly known as Savage Minds.

Jason also compiled a list of resources in Open Anthropology with U.S./American Anthropological Association focus:
https://www.livinganthropologically.com/open-anthropology-matters/

Lecture: Introduction to Cultural & Social Anthropology

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In 2017, the lecture “Introduction to Cultural and Social Anthropology” at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the University of Vienna is organized by Philipp Budka, Wolfgang Kraus & Elke Mader and discusses the following topics:

  • Introduction & Discussion: Why Social & Cultural Anthropology? What is Social & Cultural Anthropology?
  • Colonialism & Post-colonialism (& Cinema/Film)
  • Globalization: Theoretical Discourse
  • Globalization & Migration
  • Tourism
  • Economy & Subsistence
  • Material Culture & Consumption
  • Nature & Environment
  • Social Organization & Kinship (Wolfgang Kraus)
  • Ritual & Mythology (Elke Mader)
  • Religion & World Views
  • Media & Communication Technologies / Visual Culture
  • Film: „Oh, What a Blow That Phantom Gave Me!“ & Discussion

The lecture is connected to the preparatory lecture “Propaedeutic Social & Cultural Anthropology” (Wolfgang Kraus) which includes basics such as:

  • The Cultural and the Social
  • Diversity
  • Ethnocentrism
  • Social & Cultural Anthropology Methodology/Methods
  • Universalism & Relativism
  • History of Social & Cultural Anthropology

Required Reading

  • General: Eriksen, Thomas H. 2010 or 2015. Small Places, Large Issues. An Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology. London: Pluto Press.
  • Colonialism: Wolf, Eric R. 1986. Die Völker ohne Geschichte: Europa und die andere Welt seit 1400. Frankfurt: Campus-Verlag, pp. 192-227.
  • Gender: Nöbauer, Herta. 2014. His/Her-Story war einmal: Sex/Gender–Systeme im historischen und regionalen Vergleich. In: Karl R. Wernhart and Werner Zips (Hg.). Ethnohistorie. Rekonstruktion und Kulturkritik. Eine Einführung. 4. überarbeitete und aktualisierte Auflage. Wien: Promedia, pp. 204-218.
  • Media & Visual Culture: Murdock, Graham and Sarah Pink. 2005. Picturing Practices: Visual Anthropology and Media Ethnography. In: Eric W. Rothenbuhler and Mihai Coman (Hg.). Media Anthropology. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE, pp. 149-161.
  • Migration:
    1) Armbruster, Heidi. 2009. Anthropologische Ansätze zu Migration. In: Maria Six-Hohenbalken and Jelena Tosic (Hg.). Anthropologie der Migration: Theoretische Grundlagen und interdisziplinäre Aspekte. Wien: Facultas.WUV, pp. 52-69.
    2) Tošić, Jelena, Kroner, Gudrun and Susanne Binder. 2009. Anthropologische Flüchtlingsforschung. In: Maria Six-Hohenbalken and Jelena Tošić (Hg.). Anthropologie der Migration: Theoretische Grundlagen und interdisziplinäre Aspekte. Wien: Facultas WUV, pp. 110-126.

Paper: Internet for remote First Nation communities in Northwestern Ontario

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Budka, P. (2017). Internet for remote First Nation communities in Northwestern Ontario. Paper at “3rd CoRe Workshop – Mobility and Remoteness: What is the Connection?“, Vienna, Austria: University of Vienna, 26-27 May. Full Paper (PDF)

Introduction

In 1994, the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Kuhkenah Network (KO-KNET) began to develop and provide internet infrastructures and services for the remote First Nation communities in Northwestern Ontario, Canada. Public and private institutions have been reluctant to invest in this “high cost serving area” with no year-round road access, where residents have to travel by plane for medical treatment or to meet with relatives and where people have to move to southern towns to continue their high school education or to find work. In close cooperation with the region’s First Nation communities, KO-KNET has built local broadband internet infrastructures to provide services such as cell phone communication, e-health, online learning, videoconferencing, and personal website hosting. Overall aim of this initiative has been to give people a choice to stay in their remote home communities.

For my first field trip to Northwestern Ontario in 2006, I decided not to fly but to take the train from Toronto to Sioux Lookout, Northwestern Ontario’s transportation hub. This ride with “The Canadian”, which connects Toronto and Vancouver, took about 26 hours and demonstrated very vividly the vastness of Ontario. I could not believe that I had spent more than an entire day on a train without even leaving the province. Finally, I arrived at Sioux Lookout, where I would be working with KO-KNET, one of the world’s leading indigenous internet organizations.

After my first day at the office, KO-KNET’s coordinator wanted to show me something. We jumped in his car and drove to the outskirts of the town where he stopped in front of a big satellite dish. Only through this dish, he explained, the remote First Nation communities in the North can be connected to the internet. I was pretty impressed, but had no idea how this should really work.

While the satellite dish was physically visible to me, the underlying infrastructure of interconnected digital information and communication systems was not. In the weeks and months to follow, I learned about the technical aspects of internet networks and broadband connectivity, about hubs, switches, and cables, about towers, points of presence, and loops. And I found out that internet via satellite might look impressive, but is actually the last resort and a very expensive way to establish and maintain internet connectivity for remote and isolated communities.

KO-KNET satellite dish, Sioux Lookout
KO-KNET satellite dish, Sioux Lookout

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Seminar: Indigenous Media 2017

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Seminar “Indigenous Media” for the MA Program in Visual and Media Anthropology at the Free University Berlin.

Course Description

“Indigenous media matters because indigenous people do.”
(Wortham 2013: 218)

Indigenous media can be broadly defined as media and forms of media expression conceptualized and produced by indigenous people. From an anthropological perspective, indigenous media can be understood as cultural product and process that are both closely connected to the construction, expression and transmission of identity. Reflecting thus indigenous people’s history as well as contemporary sociocultural and political situations. By (strategically) inserting their own narratives in the dominant media landscape – may this be accomplished through films, TV and radio programs, or websites – indigenous people also utilize media technologies as means for social change and political transformation. Indigenous media-making practices have thus become part of the “ongoing struggles for Indigenous recognition and self-determination” and can therefore be understood as a form of cultural activism (e.g., Ginsburg 2000: 30).

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