Monday, March 04, 2013

Protest Memes: Gangnam & Harlem Shake

No sooner has a dance craze exploded over the internet than it seems to emerge as a global protest meme.

Protestors have been doing it Gangnam style since Psy's Korean pop track became an international hit last year. For instance, last October the dance featured in a demonstration at Marineland in Ontario protesting against keeping dolphins in captivity.

In January, construction workers in the Chinese city of Wuhan danced Gangnam Style outside the nightclub they had built in protest against delayed wages (Guardian 23 January 2013).

Also in China, in Henan province, there has been an ongoing campaign against the clearing of graves by the Government, including last month a mass movement to restore graves that had been partially destroyed. One local blogger complained: 'The so-called “grave clearing for agriculture” is just an excuse to get the land and sell it to developers for industrial purposes. The movement is de facto land encirclement. They use the graves of people's ancestors to decorate their hats. If the grave digging movement in Zhoukou city is successful, other cities in Henan will follow'.

As part of the campaign, a Gangnam/zombie video was put out last November with the lyrics including: 'For thousands of years, we have visited our ancestors’ graves. This is our tradition. You wipe your ass, dig up our ancestors’ graves, and they are homeless. They are moved to the public cemetery. Then you cover the land with cement and take away the land forever. Dig up the graves for agriculture, not a soul will believe this'.

Harlem Shakes the Middle East

Now the Harlem Shake is emerging as a protest dance, including in North Africa and the Middle East as a wind up of Islamists. Last week several hundred people danced it outside the headquarters of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo; earlier four students were arrested for dancing the Shake in their underwear.

In Tunisia there have been clashes between conservative Salafists and students. According to the Daily Star (Lebanon):

'Salafist Muslims tried to prevent the filming of current Internet craze the "Harlem Shake" at a Tunis school on Wednesday, but were driven off after coming to blows with students, an AFP correspondent said. When the dozen or so ultra-conservative Muslims, some of them women in veils, showed up at the Bourguiba Language Institute in the El Khadra neighbourhood, a Salafist bastion, students shouted "Get out, get out!" One of the Salafists, wearing military gear and carrying a Molotov cocktail he never used, shouted "Our brothers in Palestine are being killed by Israelis, and you are dancing."The Islamists eventually withdrew, and the students were able to film their production.

On Monday, Education Minister Abdellatif Abid said a probe had been ordered into a staging two days earlier of a "Harlem Shake" by students in a Tunis suburb. He said there could be expulsions of students or sacking of educational staff who were behind the staging of the dance'.

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