The Yellow Vests movement, which started in France in late 2018, was unprecedented in many ways. Its use of social media to bring together individuals from all across the country, its lack of clear leadership, its refusal to work alongside political parties or unions, and its ability to bring together opinions from across the political spectrum set it apart from other periods of political and social unrest in France. Yet commentators and demonstrators alike have drawn comparisons with France's revolutionary past. Could the movement be described as revolutionary? Are the violent acts of the protestors and the violent acts of the police sufficient criteria to categorize the movement as revolutionary? Drawing from government data, reports of the demonstrations, and publications on the Yellow Vests, this article argues that their appropriation of revolutionary imagery and methods suffice to qualify some of their efforts as revolutionary, especially when considering the movement's continued impact on political and social commentary in France.
Alix Choinet is a PhD Candidate in Romance Studies at Cornell University and teaches French language (2021 Romance Studies TA Award). Her dissertation focuses on fictional and autobiographical representations of terrorism and trauma in French and Francophone literature since the 1990s, and examines representations therein of witness, survivor, victim, and perpetrator figures. She earned a master's degree in Anglophone studies and Teaching English as a Second Language from ISFEC (France) and a master's in comparative literature from Rennes 2. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org