Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Global Uprisings

This research project is supported by an NWO Aspasia grant, DeepDish TV, crowd-sourced funding, and the Democracy and Media Foundation.

2011 - 2021
Marianne Maeckelbergh

Maeckelbergh is the co-producer (together with filmmaker Brandon Jourdan) of the Global Uprisings documentary film series. The film series has created an unparalleled archive of video footage from the frontlines of the revolts, revolutions, strikes, and protests that have captured the world’s attention since 2011 from the Arab Spring to anti-austerity protests in Europe to the 'Occupy' movements around the world. To date, Global Uprisings has produced 28 short films about the economic crisis, resistance to austerity, and democratic alternatives in Egypt, Greece, Spain, Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Portugal, Belgium, the UK and the US.

The films exploit the format of news merged with documentary in order to capture the essential, but underreported, aspects of the uprisings. Maeckelbergh and Jourdan's long-term engagement within global movement networks allows them to tell the story of these uprisings from the perspective of those on the ground who are making and living the revolts as they unfold. The series presents the perspectives of (some of) the movement actors in a way that places current events within their larger historical, social, economic, and political context(s).


The project as a whole is an example of activist media that is distributed online and through social media. The series is produced through transnational networks that rely, at least in part, on the technological infrastructure of the digital age. The medium is also that of digital film. Maeckelbergh is currently writing about the media infrastructure of the project to explore how the production, distribution and reception of the films impacts which stories can be told, how they can be told, and to whom.


This project is interested in connections and commonalities across a diversity of uprisings. While most literature and films on the uprisings since 2011 explore the uprisings as isolated incidents in one country or region, the Global Uprisings films show how these struggles are connected across vast distances. These films help viewers understand why political unrest is emerging in different contexts simultaneously and they give viewers an inside look into why these uprisings continuously travel from one place to another. One such common theme is the attempts within these movements to create political space for a diversity of political actors by developing structures and procedures through which power hierarchies can be counter-acted (this theme was also central to Maeckelbergh's previous research on the alterglobalisation movement, see here, here and here). The question of how to resolve systemic inequality is a key theme to all of these uprisings, though in recent years the term “diversity” has lost popularity within movement networks and is often considered to be a term that functions to mainly mask inequality rather than resolve it.


This project centres on the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis when people worldwide realised that the global economic system was unsustainable. The project explores how economic un-sustainability is connected to political instability and a crisis of legitimacy for democracy. The Global Uprisings project explores the question of what the latest wave of protest means for the future of the global economy and for democracy as a political system by providing analyses of the democratic and economic alternatives these movements are developing in their everyday practices.

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