Playback ’68: Countercultural Media Activism at the 1968 Democratic National Convention

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Embargoed until 2024-03-08
Copyright: Ryan, Mitchell
Abstract
The 1968 Democratic National Convention has long been remembered for the televised images of police clashing with protesters in downtown Chicago while delegates nominated their candidate for the presidential election. Among those gathered in the city were a number of literary and countercultural figures who acted through and against dominant forms of media, cultural, and political power. Playback ’68: Countercultural Media Activism at the 1968 Democratic National Convention focuses on such activities using the case studies of William S. Burroughs’ incendiary “invisible” tape recorder playback, Allen Ginsberg’s chant of Aum, and Abbie Hoffman’s performative approach to “media-freaking.” Employing original research in television, literary, and personal archives, the thesis provides an historical analysis of these seemingly marginal cases as they are manifested on personal, local, and national scales. They are situated within the context of arts and literature, institutional and grassroots forms of media, police and surveillance tactics, union and party politics, and broader activist aspirations leading up to and including the Convention. Playback ’68 specifically investigates how media technologies, techniques, and outlets were repurposed and navigated in this shifting and complex media, cultural and political environment. In doing so, it provides an understanding of a rich historical moment that sits of the cusp of the proliferation and broad possibility of activist media forms that we continue to see today.
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Publication Year
2021
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Thesis
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PhD Doctorate