Pussy Riot: What was lost (and ignored) in translation

From The American Reader:

Pussy Riot. Feminists. Prisoners of Conscience. Russian riot grrrls. These are the signifiers, plucked from their Russian socio-political context, that have come to represent this women’s art collective in the Western media. Robbed of any historical or cultural continuity, Pussy Riot have been used to fuel the various narratives of the Feminist movement, the human rights community, and rebel musicians who proclaim themselves defenders of free speech. This simplification of foreign political causes is nothing new in America, but why does it happen and what is lost in the process?

Here, Diana Taylor’s description of the theory of transculturation is helpful in understanding the discourse that arose in the West concerning the Pussy Riot trial. Taylor writes: “The issue in transculturation…is not only one of meaning (what do symbols mean in different contexts). It is also one of political positioning and selection: which forms, symbols or aspects of cultural identity become highlighted or confrontational, when and why.” In the case of Pussy Riot, two central elements of their Russian cultural context seem to have been lost in translation, or simply ignored in the construction of their rebel martyrdom: a) their relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church and b) their relationship to the tradition of Soviet dissident art.

Continue reading the rest of the story on The American Reader