Q&A with Camilla Møhring Reestorff from Culture War

1. Could you describe this book in a few words?

This book concerns art activists and politicians’ use of affective cultural politics in their negotiation of the national symbolic in the Danish culture war.


2. Were there any challenges you face whilst writing this title?

The difficulty of writing on culture wars is that the topic develops rapidly. Immigration policies are, for instance, strengthened and the emphasis on national identity and borders is amplified – not only in Denmark, but also in other European countries, the US and Australia. Due to the rapid development the challenge is to keep up with the continuous changes in the culture wars.


Another difficulty of writing on culture wars is that they are not limited to the traditional institutional political system. This is a challenge because it requires an understanding not only of the different kinds of participants that make up culture wars, but also their mediatised practices. This is also a challenge because it requires a transdisciplinary approach.


After I submitted the book, the so-called “refugee crisis” caused by the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria resulted in further restrictions in the Danish immigration policies and in a border control that challenged the Schengen Agreement. I felt that it was necessary to reflect this development in the book, and luckily Intellect agreed and allowed me to add an extra chapter. This made it possible to investigate how both tepid nationalism and art activism influence the ways in which the refugee crisis is articulated on social media.


3. How did you first become interested in culture war and art activism?

My interest in culture war and art activism began quite early. When I was a student in primary school the teachers were always accused of left-wing indoctrination. Furthermore, my father was born in Germany and I was therefore often called ‘sausage-German’. This meant that I had an awareness of the on-going struggle to define the national symbolic – for instance in terms of identity and curriculum. Later, around the turn of the century, the Prime Minster launched his culture war against what he called “left-wing arbiters of taste” and the “Culture canon” was made to signify Danish culture and identity. Several of the artists on the culture canon protested. I was intrigued by the clashes between artists and politicians and began to study what happens when politicians use art and culture and how artists and art activist resists and protests certain national frameworks.


4. What did you enjoy most when writing this book?

Sometimes the study of politics and affect, especially on social media, can be exhausting because it often contains intense outburst of anger – especially when the topic is culture wars and issues of national identity and immigration. Nevertheless, it is academically rewarding to find the logics that motivate political participation and affective intensifications. Furthermore, by writing this book I became aware of the multiple interpretations of the national symbolic and of the many different participants, including art activists, who in various ways engage in politics. Finally, at the end of the writing process, I was truly happy that many art activists agreed to be represented in the books’ intermezzos and contribute to the book’s visual representation of art activism in the culture war.


5. How do you think this subject / research area will develop over the coming years?

The development of national and international politics will only contribute to intensify culture wars in Denmark and internationally. There is an increasing tendency, not only in Denmark, to understand citizenship, national identity and culture as tied to the non-immigrant population – a notion that is conflictual in a world characterised by global connectivity. This will also lead to an increase in art activism that opposes specific policies and attempt to visualise and affectively intensify relations and communities that are not tied to the nation state.


The development of the subject area will most likely lead to an increase in research that studies new types of nationalism and the kind of affective cultural politics that this book has outlined. It is necessary to continue researching the importance of affective cultural politics in a political climate increasingly characterised by communication that concerns facts less than affects. Likewise research will have to come to terms with the multiple ways in which art activism navigate counteract and utilise affective cultural politics.


For more information about Culture War: Affective Cultural Politics, Tepid Nationalism and Art Activism, please click here.

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