From Occupy Alcatraz to Occupy Wall Street, from Tahrir Square to Taksim Park, protest camps are a highly visible feature of social movements’ activism across the world. They are spaces where people come together to build and imagine political alternatives, often in confrontation with the state.
The infrastructures and practices of protest camping both emerge from and inform many other practices of resistance and political action. Some of these tactics grow from necessity and innovations for survival developed in tent cities, favelas and refugee camps. Others are inherited from recreational and leisure practices like festival going and scouting. Our Network is concerned with exploring both the crucial contextual differences and the resonances between such place-based sites of resistance.
The Protest Camps Research Network came together in 2011, bridging members’ interests in protest camps, autonomous organising, direct action and alternative media. The project came out of our own participation in social movement struggles and interests in protest camping.
Meeting in tents, training sessions and by conference coffee tables, over the past two years our network has grown to include scholars from different countries, disciplines and stages in their careers. Together, we work to create a welcoming and nurturing research environment, building some of the changes we want to see in university life.
As active academic researchers and social movement participants, our analyses are shaped by our diverse experiences. Throughout our research we engage in a ‘reflexive methodology’ that draws on our first hand experience to examine theoretical and empirical materials. Likewise, we approach movement participants (whether authors of movement texts or interviewees) as knowledge producers that have much to contribute to both our practical and theoretical understandings of political life.
This “insiders’ perspective” enables us to locate details often left unspoken or unrecorded by researchers without movement experience. It also allows us to privilege those voices commonly left out of mainstream reportage and to dig up ephemeral texts through our connections to activists’ archives. In co-operating closely with movement participants and networks, our research is also meant to become part of the learning processes we see happen between protest camps, occupations and related forms of political action. It aims to influence future protest architectures to help maximise both their specific policy impacts and their more general function of bringing together radically democratic politics.
This blog accompanies our Network’s research and public education projects. On these pages we feature news about our project, commentaries on protest camps and related social movement activities, resources for further learning, and sneak peaks at our upcoming publications.
We welcome guest posts, as well as applications for membership from researchers with intersecting interests who share our academic ethos. To find out more, get in touch!