Images of Movements: Video-activist Visions of Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro

“Anywhere, where something is happening in the world, there is a cellphone. Almost everywhere, there is 3G”, said an activist film-maker in our interview in Cape Town. Certainly, citizens’ news production has been redesigning mobilisation and viewers’ perception of protests worldwide. Consequently, an exploding number of online videos shows protesting masses roaming the streets, burning barricades and police forces clashing with civilians.

My dissertation “Images of Movements – Video-activist Visions of Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro” researches the rising phenomenon of video-activism in two metropoles in the “Global South”. Video-activism signifies the appropriation of video production and distribution by activists and citizens to foster political emancipation and blame abuses of power. My research analyses practices of video-activism employed in protest waves such as service delivery protests, #RhodesMustFall, community activism in favelas and the Jornadas de Junho.

Debates about the role of “online repertoires” in contemporary social movements on the one side urge further empirical investigation to grasp the effects of the technological innovations on “glocal” street politics. On the other side, these debates demand conceptualisation of the relations between urban spaces, media landscapes and protest cultures. Based on ethnographic data, the goal is to present a thick description of video-activism. Conceptually, my investigation appropriates Henri Lefebvre’s “Right to the City” and ideas of “autogestion” to develop the notion of “utopian practice”. Thus the work substantiates current debates about the “everywhere” of viral videos of protests. Sketching the effects of transforming visibility regimes in non-institutional politics, my research offers an interdisciplinary and innovative approach to the rising subject of video-activism in two major cities from the “Global South”.

Supervisor:Sophie Oldfield (University of Cape Town)

Co-Supervisor:Christian Schmid (ETH Zürich)

External Experts: Breno Bringel (Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro)


The research of this PhD-project combines various strands of work and research ranging from urban studies and digital media studies to social movement studies. It is hereby charactersitic for my research approach to walk on the edges of social science research, art and activism to guarantee the concrete relevance of research results.

After having worked as a teacher in Ghana for one year, I started studying Sociology and Political Sciences at the University of Konstanz. Working for Prof. Andreas Reckwitz I first developed my understanding of cultural sociology and social theory. With the M.A. in African Studies at the University of Basel, I began to focusing my interests on Africa and the „Global South“. During a three month field research in Mali in 2012, I trained and applied the aquired skills of qualitative research methodologies. This study abroad resulted in the founding of the art collective KaYelema in Bamako – whose work was violently interrupted  by the Military Coup d’Etat in March 2012 – and my Master-Thesis about the Transformation of Urban Spaces in Bamako. In a photographic exhibition in Vienna (2013) I presented some of the materials produced prior and during the massive political transformations in Mali to translate the debate to a more public audience. As active founding member of the African Cinema Basel project, which regularly staged screenings of African film productions between 2011 and 2013, I have complemented to gather a rich set of perspectives on working with audio-visual materials, which fed immediately into my PhD research.

My research project „Images of Movements: Video-activist visions of Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro“, started in late 2014. In overall seven visits to Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro, I have constructed a solid network into the local scenes of video-activism and produced a rich set of empirical data. With the grant of the Graduate School of Social Sciences (2015) and a position as assistant of Eliísio Macamo (since 2016), I am currently working on the analysis and the writing-up of my research results.   


Alcântara, Livia/ Geuder, Jacob (forthcoming): “(Urban) Space, Media and Protests: A Relational Approach”, in: Fischer, Robert / Bauer, Jenny, Perspectives on Henri Lefebvre. Theory, Practices and (Re-)Readings. Spatial Temporality. Practices-Concepts-Media. Berlin: De Gruyter.

“The Right to the City ”,  in: Pensa, Iolanda/ Siegenthaler, Fiona et al. (under review): Public Art in Africa, Geneva: Metisse Presse.

“Retracing Africa in Basel – A walking tour” in: A*Magazine, No. 1, June/ 2017.

“Digitale Ambivalenzen - Medienaktivismus in Rio de Janeiro, in: Widerspruch, Nr. 67/2016, p. 107-115.

“Transformation and Production of urban spaces in Bamako, Mali“, in: Afonso, Aline (2015), Informality and Urbanisation in African Contexts: Analyzing Economic and Social Impacts, Lisbon: Centro de Estudos Internacionais do Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, p. 29-50. ISBN: 978-989-732-580-9.

“Mali – Impressions of the current crisis“, in: Till Förster/ Lucy Köchlin (ed.), Basel Papers on Political Transformation, Special edition, 02/2013. 

„Was ist eigentlich afrikanisches Kino...?“ in: Zentrum für Afrikastudien Basel und Afrika-Komitee (ed.), Afrika-Bulletin, Nr. 144, 02/2012.


„Videoactivism as an Urban Phenomenon: Rio De Janeiro and Cape Town“, Panel: Ubiquitous Images and Collective Video Practices in the Public Sphere, ISA World Congress of Sociology, Toronto 07/2018.

“Planetary Apartheid, Local Exclusions and the World Wide Web” with Dr. Luregn Lenggenhager, Conference “Beyond Planetary Apartheid“, Lisbon 05/2018.

“Digital Democracy or Digital Apartheid: Videoactivist Visions of Cape Town”, in: Research Collquium Namibian and Southern African Studies, Basel 03/2018.

“Digital Democracy or Digital Apartheid: Videoactivist Visions of Cape Town”, in: Research Collquium Namibian and Southern African Studies, Basel 03/2018.

“Practices of video-activism in Cape Town: producing digital apartheids or digital democracies?”, Panel 24: Collaboration and the politics of engaged urban methodologies, ACC International Urban Conference, Cape Town 2/2018.

“Digital apartheid or digital democracy?”, Panel: Social media and the political sphere in Africa: reshaping democratic engagement?, 7th European Conference on African Studies (ECAS), Basel 07/2017.

“Utopische Praktiken”, 3rdLefebvre-Workshop “Everyday Poiesis. Zur Platzierung des Politischen bei Lefebvre“, Basel 05/2017.

“Digital Apartheid or Digital Democracy?”,symposium “Beyond the Hashtag: Social Media in Africa”, University of Edinburgh, 04/2017

„Troubleshooting the Network“, poster presentation at Swiss Researching Africa Days, Bern 10/2016.

“A posição do pesquisador – uma reflexão num campo politico”, conference of the Insituto de Estudos Sociais e Politicos (IESP), Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro 12/2015.

“The YouTube Dispositive: Right to the City protests in YouTube videos”, Panel: Right to the City, urban conditions, and experiences of Sub-Sahara Africa, 6th European Conference on African Studies (ECAS), Paris 07/2015.

“Portraying the Right to the City: Representations of urban protests in YouTube-videos”, Panel: Radical Memories - Imagined Futures. Practices of History-Making and Prefiguration in Social Movements, 12th Conference of Société International d’Ethnologie et de Folklore (SIEF), Zagreb 06/2015

„Images of Movements: The mutual infiltration of urban and digital spaces in online-videos“, Swiss Researching Africa Days, Bern 10/2014.

„Images of movements: The art of resistance and its representation in videos of protests“, Workshop Regionalizing African Civil Societies, Uppsala 10/2014.

„The Transformation of Urban Spaces in Bamako“, Panel: Urban Imaginaries in Africa, 5thEuropean Conference on African Studies (ECAS), Lisbon 06/2013.

„Über die Herausforderung, Raumtransformationen in Bamako zu beschreiben“, Research Colloquium of Institut of Sociology, University of Basel 04/2013.

„Durch das Auge des „weissen Mannes“: Der „dunkle Kontinent“ im Farbfilm“, Eikones Summerschool, University of Basel 9/2012.

„Gebannte Erinnerungen“, Workshops „Erinnerungsorte, Kollektivsymbole und Identität“, University of Yerevan 03/2009.

Teaching experience:

„African Digital Revolution or Digital Revolution in Africa“, University of Basel, Spring 2018.

„Writing Workshop“, University of Basel, Fall 2017.

„Urban Africa – Urban Africans. New encounters of the rural and the urban“, University of Basel, Spring 2017.

 „Writing Workshop“, University of Basel, Fall 2016.

„The Right to the City in the Global South“, University of Basel, Spring 2016.

Teaching current semester: “African Digital Revolution or Digital Revolution in Africa?”

Portrait_Jacob Geuder_G3S

Jacob Geuder
Graduate School of Social Sciences
Petersgraben 52
4051 Basel

Tel: +41 61 207 13 87