Late Breaking: Mass Protests in Historical Perspective—Hong Kong, Ecuador, Lebanon, Chile

AHA Session 226A
Sunday, January 5, 2020: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Metropolitan Ballroom West (Small) (Sheraton New York, Second Floor)
James Green, Brown University
Charles Chang, Yale University
Ernesto Capello, Macalester College
Renee Michelle Ragin, Duke University
Brenda J. Elsey, Hofstra University
James Green, Brown University

Session Abstract

The early decades of the twenty-first century have seen mass protest movements catalyzing historic change around the globe. From the Arab Spring to France’s yellow vest movement, from Occupy Wall Street to the recent Remain march in the United Kingdom, millions have taken to the street to have their voices heard. Helped by the advent of new technologies of organization, in particular the evolving role of social media, political protests have led to dramatic social change or, at minimum, a discursive shift in the public sphere. Often, they have also sparked violent repression and backlash.

During the fall of 2019, these dynamics have exploded across the world. Protests in Hong Kong, Ecuador, Lebanon, and Chile, among others, have challenged entrenched political power, opened spaces for grass-roots mobilization, and put forth new conceptualizations of democracy. While it is tempting to consider these protests as outgrowths of a singular moment of global instability, all protest, like all politics, is inherently local. Moreover, protest as a historical phenomenon operates under unstable logics and activities, which Richard Schechner has described as “vortexes of activities [and] people, ... moving in spirals and circles without easy to locate centers or heads.”

Reflecting a wide range of historical fields and geographical expertise, “Mass Protests in Historical Perspective” seeks to place the cascading nature of contemporary mass protest in historical relief – telescoping upon four of the most dramatic political protest movements of 2019 – Hong Kong, Ecuador, Lebanon, and Chile. Our panel will reflect upon current mass mobilizations through a mixed-format session that will combine short presentations, commentary, and a roundtable discussion. We will welcome the discussion of other examples and encourage significant audience participation to expand from these local examples back toward a consideration of the global reach of mass protest, the historical significance of the contemporary moment, and local idiosyncrasies.

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