Prospective Thesis Topic: Pop Culture, Art, and Indigenous Ideas of Legitimacy in Struggles over Democratization and Peace

​Several countries face difficult challenges in their political transitions from autocracy to a more democratic system. The research project POPAGANDA: Pop Culture, Art, and Indigenous Ideas of Legitimacy in Struggles over Democratization and Peace is interested in how political opposition groups in such countries use popular culture and art to generate legitimacy for their political causes and propagate their messages? The project aims to unpack the role played by myths, cosmology, religion, spirituality, and magic in both generating and challenging political legitimacy. As part of the PRIO Centre for Culture and Violent Conflict, the project investigates how such opposition groups and their supporters among artists reinvent narratives rooted in these ancient belief systems in their artistic expressions. We examine how popular culture and art are used to both generate the legitimacy of political opposition groups and contest that of the state, and we explore how this practice of contestation affects current political processes and power structures.
The POPAGANDA project focuses on the cases of Myanmar and Thailand. However, the project team does not only aim to generate insights into the dynamics of politics and violence in these two case countries. It also seeks to use such cases to provide necessary building blocks to develop theory on how to understand unresolved violent and political struggles in other transitioning states. The POPAGANDA project therefore welcomes applications from MA students who want to write a thesis that, through the lens of popular culture and art, explores the impact of ancient belief systems and cosmologies on political opposition movements in autocratic states in Asia.

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