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

Tijen Tunali


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.

Palabras clave

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

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