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The act of protesting by rule-breaking in public is legitimised by the bodies of those doing so. In this panel, we will discuss ethnographically informed investigations into the aesthetic qualities of collective performances that enhance the significance of protesting social assemblies.
When people decide to purposely and blatantly break rules and norms to draw attention to problems and demand changes, their bodies become not merely a part of the message but also its legitimating force. Drawing on Butler, we consider protests as bodies acting together to call into question reigning notions of the political. Our focus on the aesthetic qualities of such processes seeks to shed light on the embodied cues that provide significance to protesting social assemblies. We are interested in rule-breaking as public and collective performance, and its manner of enhancing empathic socialities. We seek ethnographically informed investigations into the bodily practices of activists in protest. Our discussions will be guided, although not limited, by the following questions: what affects and atmospheres are created by aesthetical qualities in protesting performances? Do efforts to appropriate symbols and practices from opposing movements confuse activists and their followers? Are new forms of normativity, about what is accepted and not, emerging among rule-breaking activists? We are also interested in the manner in which such bodily elements travel in digital media, especially considering the increasing importance of screens in our Covid19 pandemic times. While some protests stress movement of bodies through public spaces, others focus on stillness, like sit-ins. Are there other constellations in which symbols, logos, and materialities interplay with multisensory experiences of those protesting as well as direct and intermediated witnesses? We welcome contributions that present fresh empirical material, reflections on methodical approaches and analytical considerations on the topic.