This study examines the meaning-making work of transnational cultural references in protest. Whether using the image of the superhero or re-mixing a famous painting, the presence of such references in home-made protest placards was a strik-ing feature of the 2017 anti-corruption protests in Romania. By means of a qualitative analysis of 58 such signs, this study identifies five types of transnational cultural resources co-opted in the local protest: politics, high and popular culture, brand names, computer culture, and other motivational slogans and protest symbols. Such references are appropriated in local protest for their recognizability potential, their generic interpretive frames, or their usefulness in generating surpris-ing re-iterations of the political cause. Yet, the use of such references remains interwoven with the symbolic and political capital of professional, middle-class elites. In the Romanian case, the use of these transnational cultural references also constructs the protesters as cosmopolitan and aligned with Western cultural consumption and political practices. In turn, this frames political opponents as backwards, parochial, and unfit for democratic politics.
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© 2021 by the author; licensee Cogitatio (Lisbon, Portugal).