ARIN6902: Why is cultural protest important?

I wanted to wrap up this blog by writing a reflective post on why I believe cultural protest matters. Some factors came up more often than others and many are intertwined.

Sure, there are plenty of examples out there of lightweight and downright ridiculous cultural protests, but there are also many more that are representative of something more meaningful and get to the heart of what it is to be human and what it is to be part of a society.

Identity formation and maintenance

Culture and cultural artefacts have a strong role in the formation of both individual and societal identities. The production of and our relation to cultural artefacts is one aspect of identity formation. Other factors may be things such as genetics, experiences and environment.

In a historical context, it is often the culture of a civilisation which provides most insights to historians about how it operated and how its members lived their lives.

As John Cusack’s character in the film High Fidelity says “what really matters is what you like, not what you are like…Books records, films – these things matter. Call me shallow, but it’s the f***ing truth.”

Protection of cultural artefacts

People may be driven to protest over a shared love of a cultural artefact that has played a significant role in their own lives. The Save BBC6 Music campaign is a prime example of that.

Economic reasons

During my research for the Save BBC6Music campaign, I often came across editorials and blogs where the argument revolved around the fact that UK residents pay an annual licence fee to pay for BBC services. Their belief is that they are paying for a service and perhaps this is the only BBC service they use personally – hence the BBC has an obligation to foster a broad range of content.

Passion for culture and a belief in its importance

Depending on the individual, some people are simply culture junkies and defenders of the arts. When a cultural artefact or practice is either directly or indirectly threatened (directly could be due to budget cuts, indirectly may be due to declining interest), those who believe in its importance enough are compelled to act.

Offense of beliefs

This factor is quite a common one when it comes to cultural protest, from the Racebending movement, which revolves around race discrimination, to the recent banning of Facebook in Pakistan over a competition to draw cartoons of Mohammed.

Desire for greater meaning

Fans of the Harry Potter book and film series loved its characters and messages so much that they formed the Harry Potter Alliance, an example of fan activism that works at “creating the blueprint for a new kind of civic engagement that combines pop culture, social change, and new media that amplifies each voice hundreds of thousands of times.”

Desire for involvement

Again, depending on personality type, some people may not feel comfortable or interested in political participation or forms of civic participation other than cultural protest. Culture is what matters to them and it is how they actively feel part of society. They may feel their influence can be felt in a cultural movement rather than a political one.


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