Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

“Chuck Norris, Please Help!” Transnational Cultural Flows in the 2017 Anti-Corruption Protests in Romania

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Abstract:  This study examines the meaning-making work of transnational cultural references in protest. Whether using the image of the superhero or re-mixing a famous painting, the presence of such references in home-made protest placards was a striking feature of the 2017 anti-corruption protests in Romania. By means of a qualitative analysis of 58 such signs, this study identifies five types of transnational cultural resources co-opted in the local protest: politics, high and popular culture, brand names, computer culture, and other motivational slogans and protest symbols. Such references are appropriated in local protest for their recognizability potential, their generic interpretive frames, or their usefulness in generating surprising re-iterations of the political cause. Yet, the use of such references remains interwoven with the symbolic and political capital of professional, middle-class elites. In the Romanian case, the use of these transnational cultural references also constructs the protesters as cosmopolitan and aligned with Western cultural consumption and political practices. In turn, this frames political opponents as backwards, parochial, and unfit for democratic politics.

Keywords:  circulation of culture; glocality; hybridity; protest communication; protest visuals; transnational cultural references



© Delia Dumitrica. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.