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Protest Wave or Protest Spike?

An Examination of European Protest Activity, 2008–2012

Matthew Schoene

Recent scholarly attention has designated European protest activity from 2011 to 2013 a “protest wave,” a term with specific sociological meaning. While many European countries indeed experienced a period of unrest, I argue that for protest activity to be considered a wave, the protest in question must be significantly higher than normative levels of participation. To this end, I conceptualize national protest culture as an explanatory factor for recent protest activity. Using the European Social Survey, a series of multilevel mixed effects regression models for 22 countries demonstrates that the most powerful predictor of protest in 2012 is the protest rate for each country in 2008. I therefore question this period’s designation as a protest wave and instead choose to refer to it as a set of discrete protest spikes.

Open access

Pollyanna Ruiz

In The Practice of Everyday Life, de Certeau likens himself to a Solar Eye reading the city spread out like a text below. He compares this all-seeing position to the enmeshed position of those whose intermingled footsteps pass through the city streets, writing stories that deliberately elude legibility. These two ways of experiencing the city offer a theoretical frame through which I will explore both the administration of protest spaces, and protesters’ ongoing attempts to subvert and evade those controls. In doing so, this contribution will examine the way in which the police practice of kettling depends upon the police’s ability to draw a series of distinctions between ‘good’ protesters who comply with state demands, and ‘bad’ protesters who err from official routes. It will go onto to explore the way in which the practice of maptivism impacts upon protesters’ ability to occupy city spaces and resist the totalizing administrations of the state.

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Marjo de Theije

Based on research in Brazil, the author discusses three local situations of conflict and social protest, using a transnational perspective. She concentrates on the use of universal claims of Catholicism in local negotiations of religious change under the influence of different cultural campaigns. The clashes in question are divided into those involving local political problems and those concerning the religious domain itself. The analysis shows that in each of the cases—albeit with different intensity and outcome—the interconnection between translocal processes and the meaning and experience of locality has a significant role in the power plays and the formulations of religious or social protest in the local context.

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Rage and Protest

The Case of the Greek Indiginant Movement

Marilena Simiti

In 2011 numerous 'Occupy' and anti-austerity protests took place across Europe and the United States. Passionate indignation at the failure of political elites became a mobilizing force against formal political institutions. In Greece a mass movement known as the Aganaktismeni (the Indignant) became the main agent of social resistance to the memorandum signed by the Greek government, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. The Greek movement did not take the form of a social movement sharing a collective identity. Left-wing protestors played a prominent role. Protestors embracing right-wing populist frames also participated actively in collective mobilizations, while segments of the extreme right attempted to manipulate rage to their advantage. During the Greek Indignant movement civil society remained a terrain contested by conflicting political forces. This unique feature of the Greek movement posed a completely different challenge to the principles of diversity and inclusiveness than the one debated within the Spanish Indignados and the Occupy protests. Furthermore, it illustrates that rage and indignation may spark dissimilar forms of political contention. Hence, rage and indignation do not merely motivate ‘passive citizens’ to participate in collective protest. They are linked to cognitive frames and individual preferences, which influence protestors’ claims and mobilizations’ political outcomes. Accordingly, advances in democratization and inclusive citizenship are only one of the possible outcomes of mobilizations prompted by rage and indignation.

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Pacifying Disruptive Subjects

Police Violence and Anti-Fracking Protests

Will Jackson, Helen Monk and Joanna Gilmore

This article considers the policing of protests against “fracking” at Barton Moss, Salford, Greater Manchester between November 2013 and April 2014. The article seeks to make sense of the policing response to the protest camp established at the Barton Moss site and to consider what the policing of anti-fracking protests reveals about state responses to resistance in the current era. The article begins by sketching out the background to fracking in the UK and to the specific protest at Barton Moss. It then provides some detail about the nature of policing experienced at the camp during its five-month operation before considering how the policing of anti-fracking protests—and protest policing more generally—need to be considered in relation to the general function of police. To do this we draw upon the concept of pacification to consider both the destructive and productive effects of the exercise of police power and suggest that this concept, and the reorientation of critical policing studies that it demands, are essential for understanding police and state violence in contemporary liberal democracies.

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Jane Mummery and Debbie Rodan

Signaling dissatisfaction with particular events, policies, or situations, modes of protest encompass individual expressions through to the development and mobilization of social movements. Indeed, protests can range from bodies blocking space and time to the aggregation of clicked signatures in an online petition and the sharing of campaign content through social media. All of these modes are currently employed within the Australian public sphere to bring about change or closure of the live export industry. This article analyzes the current dimensions and flows of public protest against Australia’s live export industry, examining how they are shaped not only by a myriad of organizations but also by differing modes of protest, as well as by the different modes of appeal in use by activists to mobilize the Australian public sphere in protest. Through this discussion, insight is gained into some of the capacities and efficacies of multimodal protest and its significance for both public engagement and political and industry uptake.

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Being There

The 2013 Anti-Government Protests in Istanbul, Turkey

Colin W. Leach, Ayşe Betül Çelik, Rezarta Bilali, Atilla Cidam and Andrew L. Stewart

By happenstance, we found ourselves in Istanbul, Turkey in early June 2013 only days after a mass anti-government protest developed in and around Gezi Park. In addition to informal discussions and interviews with academics and others, we visited the protest site and traveled throughout Istanbul to directly experience the atmosphere and events. We also conducted two studies of Turks’ participation in, and views of, the protests. This paper recounts the events in Istanbul that summer and reviews our own, and other, social science research on the protests and the protestors. We focus on who the protestors were and why they protested, as opposed to the less engaged actions of visiting the protests or following them in the media.

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Creating Space for Protest and Possibility

Nimbin, Australia, from 1973

Rob Garbutt

This article brings together the ideas of protest and counterculture in a productive engagement. If protest is understood as publicly bearing witness in opposition to something, then countercultures often do this as rejections of dominant cultures that are folded into everyday life in order to create spaces for possible futures. The countercultural experiments undertaken in the region around Nimbin, Australia, are an example of such space creation. Using interviews, presentations, and archival materials collected at a 2013 community conference marking the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Nimbin Aquarius Festival, I will explore these experiments in the context of countercultural protest. The Festival not only gathered together people under the banner of the counterculture, but provided a unique space for gathering around common matters of concern to create an ongoing countercultural community. This community continues to develop practical knowledge regarding sustainable living and innovations in grassroots environmental protest.

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More than Luck

Australian Protest in a Social Movement Society

Ben Hightower and Scott East

This introduction begins by challenging a common narrative formed in relation to Australia—that it is a “lucky country.” This “exceptionalist” view of Australia is also evidenced in national legal frameworks relating to human rights. Drawing on histories of Australian politics, it is argued that social justice stems not from luck or an exceptional legislative system, but from various forms of social contestation. Especially since the global protests of 2011, more scholars are considering the organization, impacts, and practices of social movements that occur on a global scale. Despite the evolution of globalized protest, this collection is informed by Connell’s southern theory (2007), which identifies the unequal geopolitics of knowledge. The articles in this issue provide a diverse range of case studies that can inform protest practices and evidence the vitality of dissent in Australia. Activist knowledges and a quest for collaborative approaches to protest are the two elements that run throughout this issue of Contention.

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Flying above Bloodshed

Performative Protest in the Scared City of Damascus

Ziad Adwan

Syrian activists adopted the flying demonstration protest form in 2011 during the Arab Spring. A flying demonstration occurs for a few minutes, and then the demonstrators run away. Protestors mainly chose this form to avoid deadly confrontations with the regime’s secret police. This article examines how flying demonstrations challenged the Syrian state’s media allegations that no demonstrations were taking place. Action, spectatorship, aftermath, and catharsis were key concepts from the theater and performance fields that allowed Syrian activists to intensify the demonstrations and achieve certainty, making flying demonstrations a consistent phenomenon in the capital, Damascus. I analyze the flying demonstrations theories brought from Richard Schechner’s performance theory and Augusto Boal’s invisible theater. Although demonstrators were not considering theater during their protests, I conclude that flying demonstrations’ theatrical characteristics were essential to making this phenomenon visually compelling, encouraging more participation, and, to some extent, guaranteeing safety during deadly Syrian events.