The Professors in the Pub met in Cafe Des Taxis last Thursday to debate and discuss the implications of recent mass protests events like those seen recently in Hong Kong, Bolivia, Iraq, Lebanon, and Chile.

Professor and Lecturer on Conflict Studies, Alexei Anisin, led the discussion. The concept of mass protest or collective action largely arose in the 18th and 19th century — as a response to the mass-migration from the rural countryside to urban cities. The new economic structure brought new inequalities and conflicts — protest arose as a collective response to injustices in an era that lacked social aid, welfare, regulations and governmental assistance. 

New forms of protest in the 21st century — most often organized through social media platforms have  brought new strategies and tactics. However, Anisin notes that governments use these platforms, often to monitor unrest. Social media enables the effectiveness and size of collective action but notably, also contributes to the formation of “leaderless” protest, such as Occupy Wall Street or the 2013 Turkish Gezi park movement.

Also discussed was how media coverage shapes the perception of protest. Why are protests in Hong Kong more widely covered than those in Iraq? “Violence in Hong Kong isn’t normal…it’s not attention grabbing,” suggested IRD professor George Hays. In the future, technological change and the battle over social media is sure to shape how protest and revolt will be managed.

By Ben Goings

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Publication date: November 26, 2019