Issue 8 2021 (2)

Scissors, glue and other machines: The materiality of the Prague zine scene in the post-digital era

Miloš Hroch & Nico Carpentier (Charles University)


This video essay studies the role of the material in four Prague-based so-called zines (Atton, 2010; Duncombe, 2008; Hroch, 2017; Liming, 2010; Piepmeier, 2008, 2009). The study of subcultures (and zines) has been traditionally focused on their meanings, using more culturalist perspectives. This video essay argues for paying more attention to the material as material, moving away from the exclusive focus on the discursive and the representational. The argument finds support in the concept of post-digital (Cramer, 2014; Ludovico, 2012, 2016), which allows thinking beyond the old dichotomies of the virtual and the real, or the digital and the material. 

It is closely related to the theoretical model of the discursive-material knot (Carpentier, 2017). This model, situated at the crossroads of discourse theory (Laclau & Mouffe, 1985) and new materialism (e.g., Barad, 2003; Dolphijn & Van der Tuin, 2012) aims to capture the entanglement of the discursive and the material, without privileging one over the other. The importance of the discursive realm is acknowledged in this model because the discursive is seen to create the frameworks of intelligibility that allow us to think the social world. The material matters because it has its own agencies, evidenced by its ability to dislocate discourses and to invite for discourses to become articulated with it. In other words, the discursive and the material are knotted together, inseparably and incessantly interacting with each other.

The theoretical framework of the discursive-material knot is then used to analyse a case study that is focused on the production and distribution of zines. Methodologically, the case study on four Prague-based zines combines the qualitative textual analysis of ten interviews and the content of four zine issues, with an ethnography of the zines’ production and distribution processes, including zine festivals. In particular the content of the zine issues and the photographic material generated through the ethnography feature prominently in the video, showing the role of networks of bodies, spaces, paper and related objects, many different machines, and (scarce) capitals in these zines, and their production. This analysis supports the argument that the material is omnipresent in zine production and distribution, but also that the material transcends the digital, also in intermaterial (combining materials) and transmaterial (transforming materials) ways (see Whitelaw, 2012) . Importantly, the essay argues that the use of particular materials also contributes to the discourses of alternativity that these zines communicate, thus demonstrating the entanglement of the discursive and the material.


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How to cite this article: Hroch, M. & Carpentier, N. (2021). Scissors, glue and other machines: The materiality of the Prague zine scene in the post-digital era. Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays, 8, 2021(2). ISSN: 2659-4269

Other videoessays in this issue:

Andrés Sanjurjo García (UPF/UDC)

Citizens May Laugh: Latinx Comedy and the Politics of Documented Migration
Juan Llamas-Rodriguez (University of Texas at Dallas)

From the Archive