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From the streets of London to the tributaries of the Amazon, blockades are an increasingly prevalent and successful form of protest. This panel explores blockades ethnographically to understand how they operate, why they succeed or fail, and what they tell us about contemporary politics.
From the streets of London and Beirut, to the tributaries of the Amazon river and the rural towns of Kenya, blockades are an increasingly prevalent and productive form of protest. By disrupting the circulation of goods, labour and people, blockades identify systemic failures and attribute and demand responsibility. They occupy public spaces to draw attention to injustices, demand recognition and redistribution or ask for mediation. Unlike sabotage or strike actions that are effective because they target production, blockades succeed by interrupting flows. They locate and interrupt points of connection, while destabilising and resignifying infrastructures. They cause chaos and striate smooth spaces, providing avenues for subversion but also complicity and inclusion. At times they appear to constitute reverse forms of interpellation that demand the state’s attention and are often taken up by new or fluid political formations. This panel will explore blockades to understand how they operate, why they succeed or fail, and what they might tell us about politics in the contemporary world. Potential questions include: In what ways do blockades interact with labour processes at a time of widespread precarity and unemployment? How do they reformulate experiences of citizenship and belonging, particularly for disenfranchised populations unable to rely on political parties or labour unions? How are blockades made and performed? To what extent do they rely on pre-existing gender relations or how might they reconfigure them? What is the relationship between blockades as tactics and broader causes and strategic goals? How do blockaders attribute responsibility and identify systemic failures?