Loughborough University
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Performing citizenship on YouTube: activism, satire and online debate around the anti-Islam video Fitna

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journal contribution
posted on 2010-11-26, 11:35 authored by Liesbet van Zoonen, Farida Vis, Sabina Mihelj
In this article we examine the hundreds of videos that were posted to YouTube in response to the fierce anti-Islam video Fitna. We use this case to analyse whether and how the participatory opportunities of the digital technologies invite performances of citizenship, especially with respect to the articulation of religious and/or political identity. The sheer numbers of YouTube activities (videos, views and comments) demonstrated that this was not at all a marginal phenomenon within the wider Fitna and Wilders controversy, making the question as to what these videos mean, or – to be more precise - for which contexts the posters make them meaningful, all the more pressing. We used the concepts of ‘voice’, ‘performance’ and ‘citizenship’ to approach this issue and found that the video genres unique to visual digital culture (tagging/jamming, cut-and-mix and vlogs) each invited their own kinds of political and religious performances, and assumed particular traits and interests of their audience. The most common YouTube reaction for Muslims was to upload copies of videos that expressed their own understanding of Islam as a peaceful religion in contrast to the picture drawn by Wilders. The jamming videos saying sorry were unique digital means of activism, enabling a particular participation in the controversy around Fitna that assumed a global audience open to apology. The cut-and-mix videos, appeared to be especially welcome means for satire and parody and appealing to audience emotions, but also for the deconstruction of Fitna which addressed audience cognitive competence. Vlogging about Fitna, was often part of a more regular practice of video production that was individually or institutionally maintained. We conclude that the particular articulations of religious and political identities, with different modes of audience address assume a connectedness between dispersed people in which new forms of(unlocated) citizenship emerge.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


VAN ZOONEN, L., VIS, F. and MIHELJ, S., 2010. Performing citizenship on YouTube: activism, satire and online debate around the anti-Islam video Fitna. Critical Discourse Studies, 7 (4), pp.249-262.


Routledge (© Taylor & Francis)


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publication date



This is an electronic version of an article published in the journal, Critical Discourse Studies [© Taylor & Francis] which is available online at: http://www.informaworld.com/openurl?genre=journal&issn=1740-5904




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