Zapatista Voice, Visibility and Vision: An-other Aesthetics of Globalization


  • Tijen Tunali Aarhus University


Palabras clave:

Decolonialization, Visual Activism, Zapatistismo, Zapatista Aesthetics, Indigenous Resistance, Anti-Globalization, Social Movement Aesthetics, Estética Revolucionaria, Descolonialización, Activismo Estético, Estética Zapatista


Since their insurrection on January 1st, 1994, the EZLN (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional [“Zapatista Army of National Liberation"] has promulgated an incisive critique of the colonial character of capitalist accumulation and violent dispossession led by globalized finance capital and enabled by state force. With their grassroots organization, Zapatistas have transmitted an anti-capitalist, anti-colonial worldview to the urban and rural communities around the world. This was possible not only with the strategic use of communication technologies and alternative media networks but with an understanding and production of aesthetics that uses language, visual symbols, humor and stories with an indigenous sensibility. It is thus a very poignant observation by Maria Saldaña-Portillo who argues that the Zapatistas fill in the empty content of the signifier ‘Indian’ with ‘Indian specifity’ (Saldaña-Portillo2003).

The unification of the ‘subjective philosophy of rage’ with Mayan cosmology and worldview makes neo-Zapatismo both aesthetic and political. Zapatistas strategically build their vision of the other politics’ by constructing a visual and aural world, which is hard to articulate in the traditional vocabulary and imagination of revolution as it is a unique encounter between libertarian Marxism and historical indigenous resistance. This constituted 'a powerful disruption on the original plan, and the opening of unprecedented possibilities around which a new subjectivity started taking shape 'as Deleuze articulated (Deleuze 1994:190).' It is thus essential to examine the art of the Zapatista movement that can present an important political conjuncture from which to sustain other sensorial worlds here and now.

Analyzing their community murals and other visual production with a dialectical materialist perspective, this paper theorizes and historicizes the Zapatista aesthetics and shows how the Zapatista movement in Chiapas has creatively articulated new forms of social politicity with their unique aesthetic engagements. This article argues that Zapatista aesthetics creates a disruption in what Jacques Rancière (2004) has described as 'distribution of the sensible', that is the regime of conditions of possibility to perceive, think and act in a given social-historical situation. Zapatista aesthetics is not only important to recognize that 'another aesthetics' is possible but also enables us to map the visible but disregarded ground of aesthetics in recent social movements.

Biografía del autor/a

Tijen Tunali, Aarhus University

Tijen Tunali is an interdisciplinary scholar whose research focuses on contemporary aesthetico-political practices and relations—particularly in the spaces of activism, protest and social movements. She theorizes collective aesthetics as an integral and radicalizing force in contemporary social movements both in rural and urban space. She received her Ph.D. in Art History, Theory and Criticism in the subdivision of Art of the Americas from the Department of Art and Art History at the University of New Mexico.  Dr. Tunali was a 2018-2019 Le Studium/ Marie Sklodowska Curie Postdoctoral Fellow. She is the founder and organizer of the traveling international conference Rebel Streets:Urban Space, Art and Social Movements.