Imagine if all the fervor and passion that people have felt for Harry Potter, Bollywood stars, or Marvel movies were applied to activism.
This week, we’re sharing our latest Revolutionizing Activism conversations, this time with fan culture experts who have fantastic insights into lessons we can use for social change.
Read on for our favorite takeaways and videos and check Part 1 and 2 of our series.
Harry Potter in the real world
After reading Harry Potter, Andrew Slack couldn’t help but observe how strong the books’ fan community was: “podcasts, fan fiction, conferences, and so many different interesting things that were happening.”
However, Slack found it frustrating that few of these fan spaces made a direct connection between Harry Potter and activism: “If Harry Potter wrote our world, he would do more than simply celebrate how awesome it is. He would fight for justice in our world the way he fought for justice in his.” Click here to listen for how Slack founded the Harry Potter Alliance (now Fandom Forward) to do just that.
Bollywood fans take it one step further
So how do we move from just talking about how much we love something and translating that love into action? Sangita Shresthova highlights how college student Bollywood dance competitions–where students remix dance moves from Bollywood films and then compete—can manifest fandom into strong political statements.
Click here for Shresthova’s story about a competition where college students remixed different Bollywood dances into a narrative about a young man who comes out as gay. Shresthova notes this had never been seen before in the genre and influenced important discussions in the South Asian community.
Fan activism is all about cultural dreamwork
Andrew Slack would disagree that fantasy is about escaping from our world. Rather Slack believes fantasy is “an invitation to go deeper into it. We dream at night, but our books, TV shows, movies, musicals, comics, and video games—that is our culture dreaming. And when we’re working with those cultural dreams, we’re doing cultural dream work.”
So how can you make use of fan stories? Slack and Shresthova share two principles: cultural acupuncture and civic imagination.
What is cultural acupuncture?
Andrew Slack notes that “cultural acupuncture is about finding where the energy is in the culture and moving that energy authentically to create a healthier body for our world.” For Slack the big question is: What is the big story? Slack observes three elements that enact social movements: ritual, myth, and community, and that “being a fan activist is about activating those three things.”
He also draws our attention to the Civil Rights Movement as an example of a social movement that enacted ritual, myth, and community to make a change.
What is civic imagination?
It’s impossible to talk about activism without talking about imagination. Sangita Shresthova, notes that when she and her colleagues at the Civic Imagination Project were studying young people’s use of digital media and pop culture to organize around civic issues, they observed a lot of “these movements were using a participatory mode of storytelling to imagine their movement into being,” and they were also using their imagination to understand who their community was. They were able to use their imagination to develop a “collective vision for what a better tomorrow might look like.”
Dig into Season 2 of Revolutionizing Activism
Looking for inspiration, curious about how other activists, artists, and cultural practitioners have used artistic activism to make an impact?
Watch all six episodes of the latest season of Revolutionizing Activism and be sure to let us in the comment section any lingering questions you have or which topics you’d like to see us discuss more in the future!