Art as political witness - Kia Lidroos & Frank Möller (eds.)


For this book project, we invite papers exploring the practice of witnessing politics through art. We are interested in papers problematizing the concept of art in connection with political witnessing, elaborating the political-ness of artistic witnessing, or exploring the concept of artistic witnessing as political activity. Papers may address the conceptual and theoretical dimension of the book’s general theme or present theoretically reflected case studies.

In accordance with the operating procedure of the ECPR Standing Group on Politics and the Arts, our understanding of art is not limited to fine art but open to various forms of artistic expression including popular culture. We are interested in papers exploring the work of professional artists or non-artists’ use of artistic forms of expression when witnessing politics.

The individual papers, while exploring art as political witness, may focus on art or politics or witnessing or a combination of the above but it is essential that they do engage with the concept of witnessing, acknowledging, discussing and building upon the existing literature in light of their individual subject matter.

A standard dictionary entry defines a witness as someone ‘who is or was present and is able to testify from personal observation; one who is present as a spectator or auditor.’ In the social sciences and humanities, the concept of witnessing has widely been used in connection with memories of tragic and traumatic events such as the Holocaust. We acknowledge a certain expansion of the concept of witnessing in recent scholarly work, decoupled from tragic events and increasingly applied to the everyday.

Our point of departure is the ‘witness’ as defined in the literature for example as ‘professional witness,’ the ‘expert witness,’ the ‘invisible witness’, the ‘transparent witness,’ and the ‘participant witness.’

In this book, we would like to connect with one another the subject positions of political witness and artist. In Terror and the Arts, Hyvärinen and Muszynski write that ‘artists can be participants in the political process by working with terror and trauma, and not just by depicting it.’ Artists can be participants in the political process by working with terror and trauma even without depicting it. And a person can be a participant in the political process without being a professional artist. Frequently, a witness is a spectator, observing a scene, but a witness is also someone who observes a scene indirectly, mediated through representation including artistic representation. Art witnesses, and makes others witness, politics.

List of contents: