Turning the world upside down and televising the tarpaulin revolution: what might ‘protest studies’ look like?

Tomorrow night, Tues 3rd March, I’ll be giving my inaugural professorial lecture at UEA. It is, in broad terms, a whistle stop tour through various disciplines to see what lawyers interested in protest, dissent and political participation can learn from the ideas and theories of others, and in reverse what they might learn from us. In turn, I’ll be covering history – touching on the works of EP Thompson – and geography, especially the relevance of ideas of place and space to protest. Law and geography, through the works of Nicholas Blomley and more recently by writers such as Antonia Layard, has been a developing area of the past decade in the legal academy. Next, I’ll be touching on two linked sociological areas: literature on policing especially the various models of policing disorder, and how they inform our understanding of the exercise of the legal right to protest, and social movement theorists, looking at repertoires of contention and opportunity structures. Attention is then on psychology, especially the recent literature relating to policing and kettling, and then communication theory, looking at the representation of protesters – and selection bias and media narratives – in the press. After that, I’ll be turning to look at the impact of technology – not solely social media – and what Bart Cammaerts has called the “affordances” and “constraints” – with a nod to Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker article suggesting that social media activism is not all that it might be cracked up to be. I shall conclude with a consideration of culture and protest: its representation in, primarily, music and how music can indeed be, as well as represent, political activity and dissent. I’ll end with offering an interpretation of some of the key lyrics of the Bard of Barking, Billy Bragg, in that light. The lecture is at 18:30 (3rd March) in the Julian Study Centre at UEA. I’ll upload a full transcript on this blog, and a link to YouTube for the recording


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Filed under Free speech, Policing, Protest

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