Call for papers:
American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting; November 16-20, 2011; Montreal, Quebec
Organizer: Carwil James, City University of New York
Proposed Panel: URBAN SPACES, NATIONAL REVOLTS
Cities have long served as the ruling centers of larger states, and as places where political change is fought for and resisted. In recent decades, prominent interventions in national politics have been associated with the iconic seizure of public spaces such as Tiananmen Square (China, 1989), Independence Square (Ukraine, 2004), and Tahrir Square (Egypt, 2011). Other movements have sought geographic advantage over the governments they challenge by interrupting circulation or engaging in distributed mass protest, as in the Venezuelan “Caracazo” (1989); concerted road blockades in the Bolivian Gas Wars (2003 and 2005); and recent political conflict in Thailand. In all of these cases, movements combine practical control over space and challenges to the symbolic, political, and/or racial power embedded in urban geography to call for a fundamental change in the existing social order.
How can anthropological and geographic approaches to social movements and the city interpret the influence of taking control of urban spaces on national politics? This panel seeks to unite theoretical, historic, and ethnographic examinations of social movements’ use of urban space as a political tool. Papers may examine the importance of socially constructed urban space to social movements and political change; the forms and meanings of protests that claim urban space; the experiences of participation in such movements; or the symbolic and practical impacts of protest events.
How do mass protest actions establish their own political legitimacy, and undermine the legitimacy of an existing government? Under what conditions does “democracy in the streets” license a shift in governing institutions? Panelists may look at how or why public actions on the streets and in central urban spaces are taken to be representative of the society at large, or of groups within it seeking a political voice.
What links do such events have to the changing form of the city, and to changes in structures of class, race, and gender? In an increasingly urbanized world, is there a changing, or renewed role for mass urban protest in national politics? Further, papers may examine how the various identities of protesters interact with the social importance of the spaces they control. Does mass protest in public spaces provide a form of political protagonism for the large numbers of people who now lack a formalized workplace? How does this most public form of participation interact with patterns of racial exclusion, opposition between the urban and the indigenous, and restrictions on the role of women in public life?
This panel aims to bring together multiple dilemmas on the interaction of space, collective action, the city, and the nation as expressed in dramatic periods of political participation.
Please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words to Carwil James, firstname.lastname@example.org. Abstracts are due by March 31st, you will be informed of the final decisions by April 5th. Any questions about the proposed panel should be sent to this e-mail. Please note that the final panel description will be altered to suit the questions raised by the papers that are included.
Department of Anthropology
CUNY Graduate Center