Abstracts and Papers

Protest and Dissent
An Inclusive Interdisciplinary Conference & Publishing Project

Saturday 1st December 2018 – Sunday 2nd December 2018
Vienna, Austria


Conference Abstracts and Papers


Black Protests as Anomalous Zones: Observing the State when the Oppressed Resist
Nyya Toussaint
The New School & Union Theological Seminary, US

Key Words:

Liberation movements permitted by an oppressive state do not invoke liberty- despite how disorderly, grand, loud, or time-consuming. April 5, 2018, on the corner of Utica and Montgomery in Brooklyn, NY cops policed from the rooftops, a media helicopter flew above, and white neighbors stood remorseful. Saheed Vassell, a mentally-ill Jamaican man, had been murdered by the NYPD for possessing a showerhead. With a visible and audible division among Blacks on how to or whether to respond; the White media, NYPD, and allies formulated the same tension felt on Eastern Parkway during the West Indian Day Parade. Utilizing Bakhtin’s Kanaval and Neuman’s anomalous zone, this paper assesses Black American’s viability in reforming the oppressive state through protest. It investigates whether such movements become unplanned Kanavals that are a flash of liberation sanctioned by momentarily passive states. The heavy presence of the state limits Black protests to the state-sanctioned “excess, vulgarity, mocking laughter, the privileging of body over mind, and the celebration of the grotesque” of Kanaval. As the police police, the media point and shoot, and “allies” gentrify, Black protest is far from Black liberation, due to their resistance conforming to the state’s limits of space, time, peace, and passion.


Changing Contours of Resistance in Kashmir
Shiza Abbasi
Georgetown University, SFSQ

Key Words:
Resistance, activism, contentious politics, online protest, youth movement, media, street politics, the state, power

Kashmir is a long-disputed and one of the most tumultuous regions in the world, divided since 1947-48 into two halves, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) belonging to India, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) belonging to Pakistan. While the latter has remained remarkably peaceful as a part of Pakistan, the former has simmered with political grievances and aspirations for freedom have manifested in a series of widespread uprisings. From its nascent phase in 1987 through 2016, Kashmiri resistance in J&K has been catalyzed by factors such as the Indian government’s military repression and human rights violations, denial of social justice through misgovernance, and manipulation of state elections. Resistance has been led by the peaceful pro-independence coalition known as the All Parties Hurriyat Conference as well as competing rebel groups such as the J&K Liberation Front (JKLF) and the Hizb ul Mujahideen. At the same time, participation in these organized forms of resistance has been increasingly overshadowed by popular participation in new arenas of confrontation with the Indian state, whether on the streets or online. My paper probes into this democratization and decentering of dissent in Kashmir by examining (1) shifting modes and repertoires of popular activism, both online and offline, and (2) new normative conceptions of freedom and sovereignty today as defined in dialogue with Kashmiris in AJK across the Line of Control.

Exploration of shifting modes of resistance and their underlying normative visions in Kashmir draws on a new wave of scholarship on social movements and contentious politics. This new scholarship departs from a focus on overt contestation with the state to resistance as a multifarious form of politics embedded in the social fabric of everyday life. In other words, popular resistance ought to be understood not merely a tussle between the state or elites and ordinary men and women, but as a way of life, that is, a constant negotiation of multiple, overlapping forms of power relations in society.


Mothers Facing a Dictatorship: The Iconic Madres de Mayo from Argentina
Andrea R. Bellot
Rovira i Virgili University (URV), Tarragona, Spain

Key Words:
Madres de Mayo, Argentina, dictatorship, missing people, civil rights, demonstrations, mothers

From 1976 to 1982 Argentina was ruled by a dictatorship that had come to power through a military coup deposing the democratic President Isabel de Perón. The National Reorganization Process, as these dictatorships used to call themselves, abolished the national constitution, depriving the citizens of most of their fundamental civil rights. Although Argentina had already suffered under some other military regimes, this was considered to be the worst, a “Dirty War” that violated human rights and which resulted in the “disappearance” of thirty thousand political activists.

In 1977, in this dreadful scenario, a group of women began to appear in Plaza de Mayo, a square which is located in the centre of Buenos Aires opposite the Presidential Casa Rosada. They soon became known as Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo. They met once a week and walked in silence around the plaza. They carried pictures of their missing children, their sons and daughters who were political opponents of the military government and that have been abducted by the regime. Nobody knew if they were in concentration camps being tortured or if they had already been murdered. These mothers simply demanded information regarding the fate of their children.

This paper will seek to analyse the key role these mothers played by daring to make a political stand when publicly demonstrating against a fierce dictatorship. The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo expressed their protest through their bodies, even though their bodies were marked by the grief for their missing children, their posture was one of resistance. The Mothers symbolised their protest by wearing white headscarves, a white scarf which was, and which symbolised, the diaper of their missing sons or daughters. This white scarf or diaper became a symbol of the group and nowadays it stands as an icon on its own right.


Implementing Change Brought by Protest and Dissent in Brazil
Leila Bijos
University of Brasilia (UnB) – Brazil

Key Words:
Protest and Dissent in Brazil; Civil Society; Democracy; Political Corruption; Public Opinion; Latin American Politics.

This paper looks at the effect of Dilma’s Rousseff impeachment in 2016 in Brazil, the impact of Left party erosion with the change of government with Michel Temer, from Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB), vice-president assuming the government; and the evidences of corruption in the previous government led by President Luís Inácio Lula da Silva. The citizens felt shocked by the deviation of public money, during the twelve years of Left party in power and the deteriorating of civil-law jurisdictions (MATTEI and NADER, 2008; POSNER, 2014), as well as problems with education, employment, housing and health systems. The research challenges this view by documenting and explaining the growing protests of the organized civil society in Brazil since the inauguration of the Soccer Stadiums in 2013. These movements have shaken up the political power which inertia is criticized by the young generation (COHEN and ARATO, 1992, LIPSCHULTZ, 2006). The movement, also known as the Brazilian Spring, advocates for free public transportation, protests due to increases in bus, train, and metro ticket prices in some Brazilian cities, but grew to include other issues such as politicians involved in schemes of corruption in the government, in fact a crisis of representative democracy. Analytical emphasis is put on the contemporary Brazilian foreign policy, its political context, contemporary aspirations and the patterns of its engagement in several economic blocs, political alliances, the environmental protection of the Amazon (ARNDT, 1987; ASTON and GOODMAN, 2013). My findings suggest that questions have been put to the fore concerning political corruption, violence against women, defense and security focused on gangues in shanty towns in Rio de Janeiro, showing changes brought by protest and dissent in Brazil (AXT and SCHWARZ, 2006; DONNELLY, 2013; DWORKIN, 2011). Global human rights reforms should not only be rooted in a transnational legal culture, but approach local social situations in which human rights are violated. In this context, global human rights law has become an important resource for local social movements. The importance of gender issue is central in attempting to eliminate poverty (WHO, 2017).


Navigating the Personal and Political in Social Activism Across Two Lived Experiences
Nigel Westmaas
Hamilton College, New York, US

Key Words:
scholar-activism, praxis, socialism, civil rights; global capitalism, colonialism, political subjectivity, social critique

The paper’s focus on the ontological challenges in navigating that complex border between the personal, protest activism and scholarship; that is, my personal comparative journey in two geographical settings: the USA and Guyana.

I critically discuss my own engagement in street protest, pamphlet distribution, general political organizing, personal experience with political thuggery and brief imprisonment in Guyana; and in the case of the USA, my scholar activism in an academic setting.

Utilizing my own comparative activist experience(s) in both locations as a political activist and student activist in Guyana and my subsequent arrival in the USA and the challenges of protesting in an academic environment this paper will examine and interrogate how these separate experiences correlate, overlap and inform each other and impact on my own life.

I argue that our (my) activism is mediated by the historical and contemporary contexts in both ‘home’ (Guyana) and in the new milieu of experience, the United States.

I further argue that the context or experience in these two separate environments is relevant in (a) connecting the past with the present or what I term “living history” , in other words, understanding and critically linking the legacies of a historical global capitalist system we inherited to the present; and (b) evaluating, in spite of much-hyped progress, the deeply rooted structural features of racism, and inequalities in gender and social class.

The paper will attempt to weave the participant – observer experience. In other terms, how being both an activist and an academic informs my praxis

The research paper will address among other things:

• Movement and protest experiences in Guyana and the USA
• The consequences of my activism on life and family
• The utilization of the feminist use of the subjective “I” in protest narratives and the individual’s interaction with political and social problems
• The ‘ideological’ dimensions involved in my activism


Film Screening – ‘You Can’t Move History’
Q&A with Pollyanna Ruiz and TBC


Remembering Resistance: Conceptualising the Relationship between Power, Place, and Protest
Sarah Marsden
Lancaster University, United Kingdom

Chris Boyko
Lancaster University, United Kingdom

Cities are a locus of power and have been at the heart of political contention for centuries. This paper sets out a framework for interpreting how power is articulated and resisted in urban environments. It informs Remembering Resistance, a transdisciplinary research project that seeks to understand the relationship between power, place, and protest. Integrating theory and methods from politics, sociology, geography, and urban design, the framework focuses attention on the spatial, temporal, and narrative features of protest. Theoretically, the paper builds on work on spatiality and social movements by drawing on approaches in critical geography, which recognise the complex entanglements of power implicated in contention. Conceptually, the paper argues that a historical approach that takes account of the full range of contention, from everyday resistance to riots, is able to reveal the changing relationship between power and people. This temporal approach draws attention to how narratives and practices emerge from historical understandings, the ways these are contested and controlled, and how they reflect new and imagined, politico-spatial orders and distributions of power. Methodologically, the paper proposes that deep mapping of multiple spatial narratives makes visible the layered and contested dynamics of power at work around specific sites of contention. It concludes by considering how the conceptual framework might inform participatory approaches to planning, and explores what it suggests about interventions in the urban environment that might increase the potential for cooperation and reduce the potential for conflict.


Autocrats and Absolutists: Narratives of Pacifism from the Hague Convention to WWI
George Robinson
University of Reading, United Kingdom

Key Words:
Hague Convention, pacifism, World War I, Lieber Code, international humanitarian law

Historians such as Thomas Lacquer and Thomas Haskell have identified a humanitarian tradition arising in the early nineteenth century, expounded through literature and charitable works. In Victorian England, the period bore witness to an explosion in protest movements based on humanitarian principles, including the abolitionists, universal suffragists, animal rights campaigners, poverty relief campaigners, the Red Cross movement, and the pacifists. One such manifestation of the pacifist movement was championed by an unlikely hero; Tsar Nicholas II.

In August 1898, Nicholas invited delegates from the European powers to a peace conference that would come to be known as the Hague Convention 1899. Its initial aims were a moratorium on international arms and munition production, the establishment of an international tribunal for conflict resolution, and the codification of customary international humanitarian law. Although these aims went unfulfilled, the resulting Convention was still a monumental step in the regulation of arms in warfare and the codification of international law.

The Hague Convention therefore appears to be an outlier in a period that is often considered a time of inevitable escalation in arms races and hostilities, culminating in the outbreak of World War I. Many political and legal figures from the period foresaw this conflict, and correctly identified arms industrialisation and imperial aggression as its major causes; but did Nicholas really believe in international peace, and if so, how was he able to countenance such beliefs with his treatment of dissenters and protestors within the Russian Empire? How did his imperial brand of pacifism compare to the absolutists protesting on the streets of London?

This author seeks to contextualise the Hague Peace Conference in light of its original aims and compare it to the philosophy of the pacifist protest movements emerging in late Victorian Europe, as well as the nascent ideas popular amongst international lawyers who sought to construct a legal framework ensuring peace at the dawn of the twentieth century.


Adorno, Levinas and the Notion of a Marginal Theory/Praxis in 1968-9
Eric Oberle
Arizona State University, USA

Key Words:
Adorno, Theodor; Levinas, Emmanuel; Marx, Karl; theory and praxis; margins; ethics

The unity of theory and practice”: no trope is more central to the radicalisms that spilled out of global protest movements of the late 1960s than this shorthand version of the young Marx. The formula was in fact designed for this purpose: when Engels spoke at Marx’s graveside in 1883, he wanted Marx not to be remembered just as a scholar, but as a revolutionary who looked around him and sought to change the world. Five years later Engels published the “Theses on Feuerbach,” whose second thesis asserted that theory sprang forth from everyday consciousness: theory transformed the invisible objective suffering of the world–making visible its subjective effects, and creating a new object of knowledge out of theory’s objective reconstruction of the world. This idea of subject-object unity burned through the student movements of 1968, serving as a J’accuse against the Vietnam War, Jim Crow, the Iron Curtain and every preserved fraction of outdated and patriarchal social relations. This paper explores the history of the “unity of theory and praxis” in the French and German contexts, from the rediscovery of the “young” Marx through the radicalization of the idea of consciousness. It explores this dominant theme in itself and also from its implicit margins—asking how the notion of ethics and a non-identity of theory and practice emerged as a counter-discourse to the idea of direct action, general strikes, and the radical presentism of the ’68 moment. Focusing on how two “grandfathers” of this moment, Theodor Adorno and Emmanuel Levinas, structured their response to the protests in terms of thinking about marginality and alterity, this paper argues for the complementary–and necessary–relation of a theory of immediacy in theory and practice to a theory of mediation at the margins and in the face of the Other.


The Role of Internal Third-Party Interveners in Civil Resistance Campaigns: The Case of Israeli Anti-Occupation Activists
Leonie Fleischmann
City, University of London

Key Words:
civil resistance, nonviolent struggle, third-party intervention, Israel, Palestine, anti-occupation

A growing body of research on civil resistance, which refers to nonviolent strategies to challenge a more powerful opponent, has focused on the role of ‘external third-party intervention’, where foreign activists and organizations intervene in a local resistance campaign. In doing so, they have been shown to help the campaigns in its goals. This suggests that studies should look not only at how methods of civil resistance can challenge an opponent, but also who is engaged in civil resistance. Less attention has been given to ‘internal third-party interveners’, which refers to activists who are internal to the conflictual situation by virtue of either implicitly or explicitly upholding the regime, while being third-parties in that they are not the ones under the oppression of the regime. This is surprising given Galtung’s (1989) ‘Great Chain of Nonviolence Hypothesis’, which posits that those closer to the centres of power will have greater leverage to challenge the authorities than those further away.

Based on in-depth interviews and participant observation, this paper provides an analysis of the role of internal third-party interveners in the case of Israeli-Jewish activists who join Palestinians in their resistance against the Israeli military occupation. It details three ‘co-resistance’ campaigns: the struggle against the Separation Barrier; combatting evictions in East Jerusalem; and countering displacement in Area C of the West Bank. It shows that internal third-party interveners (Israelis) are better placed to assist the local resisters (Palestinians) than external third-party interveners (foreign activists). However, complexities arise due to power asymmetries between the different actors. This is particularly so with internal third-party interveners, due to their position as adversaries of the local resisters. Long-term commitment, developing good levels of trust, and avoiding dominating the campaign can enable the interveners to use their power to assist the local resisters in their nonviolent struggle.

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