The Use of Video as an Activist Tool of Self-Representation for Turkish practitioners in Germany (VIDEOACT)

This project examines the use of video as an activist tool by practitioners of Turkish descent, who have moved to Germany in the post-Gezi era (2013). It aims at contributing to the knowledge of how video can be used to portray social and political issues that have a direct effect on the livelihood of those creating the media. The project will also reveal the ways in which the new context of Germany has impacted the cinematic and artistic explorations of the practitioners.


VIDEOACT aims to examine the use of video as an activist tool by media practitioners from Turkey, who have left the country for a variety of different reasons and are now living in Germany. I aim to draw a map of the various audio-visual practices employed by this new diaspora from Turkey and analyze the formal, thematic and aesthetic elements they deploy.

The methodology of the project includes textual analysis of activists’ videos, discourse analyses and interviews. The third-leg of the research project includes the reception of these videos, so as to understand the social impact they may have. Moreover, practice-based research approach will also be developed with the audio material gathered from project participants to create an landscape pertaining to their interweaving stories, paired with imagery representing their experiences.

In this growing authoritarian context where the limits on freedom of expression have been tightening more and more, an increasing number of Turkish citizens have sought asylum in Germany and other European Union member states.  This has been the case since the attempted coup d’état of 2016 in Turkey, but a process that really began post-2013 Gezi Park protests. Germany particularly has been a top destination for this new class of political refugees. The media practitioners who have left Turkey for political reasons include several photo-journalists, documentary filmmakers and video artists. They have used the moving image and its various aesthetic formats as a critical tool to render visible issues ranging from the oppression of women and ethnic minorities to restrictions on freedom of speech and issues of displacement. Their activism through the audiovisual medium has the representational power to shift public dialogue regarding the issues they address by reframing their discursive setting, thus mobilizing civil society and strengthening counter publics.

In terms of the wide range of typologies developed in order to categorize activist videos, I have selected that proposed by Notley, Gregory and Lowenthal.  Video for Change is used as an umbrella term defined as “the use of video to support social movements, document human rights violations, raise awareness on social issues, and influence social change” (Notley et al. 2017). This typology incorporates different video-making styles, formats, approaches and practices (including personal storytelling, touching upon the affective, empowering the subjects), thus extending the analytical scope beyond the confinements of the strategic work of social movement actors. In that sense, this scope fits better with the range of genres, formats and approaches to videos that is aimed to be analysed for the project, where they too include a wider understanding of the spectrum of video that can be used to ameliorate social relations and create awareness.

The outputs of the project will include journal articles, and conferences where the research results will be shared, as well as screenings open to the public, opening up dialogue on the issues raised in the videos.

For more information visit the project website here