Accepted paper:

Occupying Wall Street: misunderstandings, authentic and disingenuous

Authors:

David Hicks (Stony Brook University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper demonstrates how the concept of misunderstanding can be a rich analytical tool for understanding how the media and politics manipulate socio-political movements to advance ideological notions, ambitions, and agendas.

Paper long abstract:

On 17 September 2011 protesters marched on the New York Stock Exchange. Prevented from doing so by the New York Police Department, they diverted to nearby Zucotti Park where they set up a tent community. Justifying his tolerance by evoking "the right of free speech", the mayor of the city, Michael Bloomberg, made no attempt to eject them. After the disruption they wrought over the next two months, however, the mayor changed his mind and now evoked concerns about noise, unsanitary conditions, drug use, and so forth. The police removed their tents, whereupon the protesters repeated their attempt to enter the Stock Exchange, an act that provoked serious violence. Meanwhile "Occupy Wall Street" imitators had founded their own groups in other United States urban centres. This paper argues for two propositions. (a) That the protesters' rhetoric and the various exegeses offered by outsiders - politicians, unions, editorial writers, and academics -- not only reveal a certain understanding of what the protestors, mayor, and police were doing, but also reveal certain misunderstandings. (b) These misunderstandings can be shown to fall into two categories: authentic and disingenuous. By scrutinizing both, but more particularly disingenuous misunderstanding, the application of the concept of misunderstanding as an tool of analysis is demonstrated to be rich in possibilities for rendering intelligible the processes by which influential individuals in the media and politics manipulate socio-political movements to advance ideological notions, ambitions, and agendas.

panel IW004
Towards an anthropology of misunderstanding (EN)