“Resistance,” as a keyword for contemporary media studies, has a curious political lineage. It was first adopted by the right, then crossed the aisle to the left; its history marks the evolution of an idea and a transformation in cultural politics.
The English word “resistance” is a derivation of “resist,” stemming from the Latin—via the French—and meaning to stand. Resistance has a technical scientific meaning, “the opposition offered by one body to the pressure or movement of another,” as well as a later psychoanalytic one: the unconscious opposition to repressed memories or desires. But it is the Oxford English Dictionary’s primary definition, “to stop or hinder (a moving body); to succeed in standing against; to prevent (a weapon, etc.) from piercing or penetrating,” that conveys the meaning most often used in media studies: resistance is a stand against an oppositional power.
Writing Reflections on the Revolution in France in …