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Introduction to Literary and Cultural Analysis 2021/22

What does it mean to perform an ideology and to perform a protest?

Three kids walking with signs in their hands in the Central Dam Square of Amsterdam.

Asking ourselves what it means to perform an ideology and to perform a protest, we wrote nonsensical beliefs on cardboards in three different languages. While only those who can read the language written on the sign could understand the message, onlookers could still see that a belief is being expressed.

Social movements are understood through “shortcuts”: a red hat, a black fist, a hammer and sickle – in similar ways to Roland Barthes writings on myth creation; the logo or the symbol seems to communicate words themselves by signifying what they represent. By looking at the symbol or message on a cardboard sign, one can identify the ideology. We wanted to take this further and instead of focusing on the message or symbol on the sign, we focused on the symbol of the sign.

A kid holding a sign in the Dam square.

Not everyone could read the words on the sign, but it is reasonable to believe that they still thought that something important was being presented. Perhaps they tried to deduce what the sign could say by thinking of what other ideologies they have been interacting with recently. So, while the language on the sign is not universal and our beliefs are often misunderstood or not understood at all, the language of a protest/demonstration is much more “universal”.