Feeling Like a Movement: Visual Cultures of Educational Resistance

  • Erica R. Meiners Northeastern Illinois University (Education and Women’s and Gender Studies)
  • Therese Quinn University of Illinois at Chicago (Director of the Museum and Exhibition Studies Program)


Who wasn’t glued to the 2012 Chicago teacher’s strike? We, two university-based educators in the city were riveted by it, and we were not alone. From The Guardian and Al Jazeera America, to the Chicago Tribune and blogs representing a wide political spectrum, the whole world seemed to watch as thousands of red t-shirted teachers, and their innumerable allies including, young people, parents, and other union members, sang, chanted, and marched in the streaming autumnal sunshine throughout the nine day strike.

This Chicago’s teachers strike made full use of digital technologies and social media; teachers and supporters rallied themselves and each other with a steady stream of catalyzing images: well-designed posters, tweets, funny and snarky hand-made signs, powerful photographs of seas of red-shirted protesters flooding downtown streets. Pictures of children and young people standing up for their teachers, parents rallying to prevent school closures, and bored and dismissive school board members and politicians worked to educate, entertain, and mobilize supporters. The images, art and artifacts—memes conveying ideas—produced by teachers and their accomplices mobilized people because they made them feel.