Agata Anna Lisiak

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2013/2014
discipline Media
Migration Studies professor at Bard College Berlin

Research project

Women in Visual Representations of Revolution: From the French Revolution to Occupy Wall Street


The visual representation of revolution as a woman – be it a woman's body, a woman's face, or a woman's silhouette – is recurrent across cultures and centuries. We may want to attribute it to the fact that the noun "revolution" is female in various languages (e.g., la revolución, la révolution, die Revolution, al-thawra, rewolucja), point at the long tradition of female allegories of grand concepts (Liberty, Victory, Fortune, etc.) and nations (Britannia, Mother Armenia, Germania, Ibu Pertiwi, etc.), or understand it simply as an acknowledgment of women's participation in revolts.


While there are numerous studies on the role and image of women in revolutions, they tend to focus on specific events such as the French Revolution (Landes 2001) or the Arab Spring (Al-Malki 2012). Comparative research on the topic is rare and focuses either on political action by women revolutionaries (Rowbotham 1972) or on history of visual representations of women in general, not necessarily in relation to revolutionary movements (Doy 1995). Keeping in mind these and other blank spots in comparative analyses of female representations of revolution, I propose to look not only at said images, but also behind them. I will discuss visual representations of revolutions as well as the discourses that surround them and their (pop) cultural appropriations.


What are the dominant themes in visual representations of revolution as a woman across the world? What are the archetypal figures that resurface in various cultural and historical contexts? How do images of revolution speak to each other? Is the poster for the Occupy movement depicting a ballerina standing on top of the Wall Street Bull with gas masked crowds behind her a contemporary response to Delacroix's 1830 painting Liberty Leading the People? How does the iconic image of the elegantly dressed woman kneeling above the body of dying Benno Ohnesorg shot during a demonstration in West Berlin in 1967 relate to the widely distributed footage of Neda Agha Soltan shot during a peaceful demonstration in Tehran in 2009, dying on the street surrounded by men trying in vain to keep her alive? What do we learn from the trajectory of a seemingly random photograph of a young woman at Occupy Los Angeles that was rendered by the artist Shepard Fairey and in its new form featured on the cover of the issue of Time magazine that proclaimed "the protester" the Person of the Year (2011)?


In order to answer these and other questions, I will embark on a journey through images and their contexts, an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural investigation encompassing such areas of study as comparative cultural studies, media studies, gender studies, history, and art history. My discussion on revolutionary aesthetics is indebted to theories from the broadly understood field of visual studies developed by Ariella Azoulay, Susan Buck-Morss, Stuart Hall, Griselda Pollock, and W.J.T. Mitchell, among others. As in my previous work, I will borrow from the theoretical framework and methodology of comparative cultural studies developed by Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek, which focus on the how of cultural phenomena.



Agata A. Lisiak holds a doctoral degree in Media and Communication Studies from University of Halle-Wittenberg (2009), an MPhil in Literature from the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam (2005), and an MA in International Relations from the University of Economics in Poznan (2002). After five years at Humboldt University postdoctoral researcher in the TRANSFORmIG project, she is currently Migration Studies professor and Academic Director of the Internship Program at Bard College Berlin.


She is interested in media representations of cultural phenomena, representations of women in public discourse and popular culture, sociolinguistics of migration, spatialities of migration, and developing ethnographic methodologies for researching said issues. 

Selected publications


‘Urbanities of Budapest and Prague as Communicated in New Municipal Media’, in L. O. Vasvári & S. Tötösy de Zepetnek (eds), Comparative Hungarian Cultural Studies, Purdue University Press, West Lafayette, 2011, pp. 320-331.


Urban Cultures in (Post)Colonial Central Europe, Purdue University Press, West Lafayette, 2010.


‘Mapping Migration and Urban Identities in Second Cities’, in S. Tötösy de Zepetnek & I-C. Wang (eds), Mapping the World, Culture, and Bordercrossing, National Sun Yat-sen U, Humanities and Social Sciences Series, Kaohsiung , 2010 , pp. 139-149.


‘The Making of (Post)colonial Cities in Central Europe’, CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, vol. 12, no. 1, 2010.


‘Disposable and Usable Pasts in Central European Cities’, Culture Unbound, vol.1, 2009.


‘(Post)kolonialne miasta Europy Środkowej’ [‘(Post)Colonial Cities of Central Europe’], Porównania, vol. 6, 2009, pp. 135-47.


senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2013/2014
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline Political Science
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline History
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline History
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline History