Shayna Silverstein

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities

20132014 Forum on Violence

Shayna Silverstein


Ph.D., University of Chicago

Between Subversion and Silence: Violence, Popular Culture, and the Syrian Conflict

This project examines how violence is negotiated in discourses of collective identity as situated in popular culture and social media during the Syrian conflict. I will first identify creative strategies of subversion and dissent against the Syrian regime by focusing on protest chants, collective dance, and the circulation of these cultural forms through social media networks. The emergence of protest culture, or the critique of asymmetrical power relations, may indicate shifts from a climate of extreme cultural censorship to one that affords freedom of expression, albeit within the constraints of large-scale violence and social rupture.

In particular, I will analyze the spatial representation of violence in protest culture by focusing on the construction of place in relation to lyrics and stylistic idioms, as well as narratives promoted by state and other institutions that contest the locatibility of torture and protest sites. Second, I will consider the silent majority who remain complicit with the regime by examining whether discourses of sectarianism and Salafism are embedded in commercial popular music and how these discourses mark certain social boundaries. Finally, this ethnography will interrogate the role of social media in representing violence and forming new socio-political alliances in Syria and beyond. This project seeks to not only offer new perspectives on popular culture and everyday life in the context of large-scale violence but also to articulate the multivalent ways in which violent acts are mapped onto newly imagined cultural worlds.