Performances of Closeness and the Staging of Resistance with Mainstream Music

Analyzing the Symbolism of Pandemic Skeptical Protests

in German Politics and Society
Anna Schwenck Sociologist, University of Siegen, Germany

Search for other papers by Anna Schwenck in
Current site
Google Scholar
Restricted access


Performances of closeness—showing one's uncovered face, physically touching others, rhythmic chanting combined with hand gestures, and collective singing and dancing—were central to pandemic-skeptical protests in Germany. This article shows that publicly performing such intercorporeal practices can become a political act when governments and health professionals promote physical distancing and mask mandates. Moreover, it analyzes how pandemic skeptics used both visual and auditive symbols of resistance against past dictatorships that are popular in Germany's dominant national narrative to legitimate their protest and stage “the people.” Protesters’ invocation of a new totalitarianism closely connects to fears revolving around the erosion of representative democracy in neoliberal times and the emergence of a digitalized world ruled by mega-corporations that is seen to be threatened by anonymity and isolation.

Contributor Notes

Anna Schwenck is a cultural sociologist currently studying how popular musics negotiate political violence in Southern Africa in the framework of the “Transformations of the Popular” Collaborative Research Centre at the University of Siegen. Anna's previous research focused on the merger of neoliberal and authoritarian state policies and how they tie into popular cultural understandings in Russia and beyond (her book Flexible Authoritarianism is forthcoming with Oxford University Press) and on processes of retraditionalization in German-language popular music cultures. Email:

  • Collapse
  • Expand