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In the Shadow of the Iron Curtain

Central and Eastern European Alterglobalists

Grzegorz Piotrowski

This book examines the alterglobalist activists in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Based on lengthy ethnographic fieldwork and numerous in-depth interviews with key figures of the movement, it covers mobilizations and actions between 1998 and 2011 and analyzes the process of adapting the alterglobalist way of thinking, claims and organizational modes in post-socialist countries. By pointing out the main challenges the movement faced, the author discusses the ways it tried to overcome these. The main argument is that the post-communist legacy (expressed in low levels of mobilization, in rejection of leftist ideals and discourse and in deep mistrust towards political life) had a tremendous impact on the formation and the shape of the alterglobalist movement in the region.

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Chapter 6: The scene – the cultural background of the movement


One of the ways in which the alterglobalist movement can be analyzed is by looking at its cultural aspects. Being different from the previous movements or waves of mobilization – in its structure; organizational forms; and so on –, the alterglobalist movement can be seen as a more countercultural than others. Taking into account the ‘temporality’ of the movement, manifested by its presence in the public sphere only during large-scale protests and campaigns, more time should be devoted to analyzing the cultural background of the movement. This background helped to mobilize crowds of people during demonstrations, and at the same time it influenced the effect the politicized movement has on the mainstream and popular culture. With regard to the latter, I was especially interested in the fringes of the movement – certain initiatives inspired by the core groups that drew lots of attention, but were not at the center of the movement’s activities, and the people that participate in these are not the devoted hardcore activists, and are not recognized (by others) as activists.

The purpose of this chapter is to see whether the alterglobalist movement in the region has some other sources than the ones mentioned before. According to my observations, many of the groups and activists I was studying had strong subcultural ties (especially with punk and hardcore music subcultures) even if some of them tried to move away from such connection. Nevertheless some of the vocabulary they used (such as the ‘scene’), their outfits or design...

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