Revolution From the Margins: Commemorating 1917 and RT’s Scandalising of the Established Order

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Abstract

In this article I explore what RT’s unusually open-ended project commemorating the centenary of the Russian Revolution - #1917Live – tells us about its tendentious, mainstream output. I adopt an epistemological framework locating meaning in the marginal and different rather than the normative and recurrent, treating this ‘un-RT like’ project’s components as multi-layered cultural texts to be interpreted rather than sociological data to be counted and coded. I read them through a hermeneutically inflected version of mediatization theory. This theory’s central precept posits a fusion of media practices with those of politics and everyday life. An under-researched corollary of that precept is a short-circuiting of the ‘subject’ and ‘object’ of media representations. As well as influencing #1917Live’s emphasis on broadcaster-audience co-production, the short-circuiting effect foregrounds the modality of those representations – their truth claims and the subjectivities attached to the realities they depict. In analysing this effect, I highlight: (i) #1917Live’s chronotopic intertwining of past and present; (ii) its ‘event-ness’: the sense that it constitutes a news story in its own right; (iii) the ludic elements modalising its commemorative narratives by according them a distinctive ironic voice which re-establishes distance between ‘subject’ and ‘object’. Linked to a late Soviet cultural phenomenon known as ‘stiob’, such features render #1917Live reflexive, carnivalesque and deeply dialogic, re-aligning it with RT’s disruptive mainstream output and constituting a new kind of ‘media event’. They indicate that RT’s scandalous, ‘pariah’ reputation is internalised within a fragmented institutional identity key to the entire ‘information war’ dynamic.

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Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Cultural Studies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 19 Jun 2019

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