Call for papers – Hannah Arendt and Street Protests

BSP News Item Thumbnail

CfP for 2023: Exploring how Arendt’s work proves fruitful for theorizing what happens when people take to the streets.

Call for Papers: Hannah Arendt and Street Protests 13 (2023)

In the last decade, massive street protests have again come to the fore as a go-to mode of expressing political criticism. Not only in countries often perceived as championing democratic civil society – and hence supporting political dissent – but also in regions historically marked by different forms of political oppression, where reluctance to take political action or indifference towards politics in general might be expected, people are now raising their voices and taking to the streets to protest against both long-lived forms of injustice and current perils to civil and human rights posed by populist governments around the globe. These protests are reactions to different political crises.

Hannah Arendt could very well be described as a thinker of the crisis, or perhaps of multiple crises – and the frequency, with which she used the term “crisis” into the titles of her writings is perhaps the best evidence for her respective sensibility. This seems to be one of the reasons why academic and public interest in Arendt’s writings is on the rise. It is because so many politically urgent challenges today call not for dogmatic, but for critical and practical perspectives. Not only her writings explicitly directed at revolutionary practices and civil disobedience but also her reflections on violence, ideology, acting in concert, and, last but not least, reflective judgment prove fruitful for theorizing street protests, leading to a better understanding of what actually happens when people take to the streets.

Street protests have multiple causes; they differ as to their political aims, forms of expression, and degree of success. Movements like Black Lives Matter, #RhodesMustFall, the climate protests of Fridays for Future, Women’s Protests in Iran, Latin America, and Poland, the anti-government street protests in Hong Kong, Israel, Peru, and Belarus, the mass public opposition to the military putsch in Myanmar, or the pro-opposition protests in Russia (but also their counterparts like Querdenker’s walks in Germany, January 6 Capitol attack in the USA, or Canada Trucker Convoy) are only some examples of how mass protests appear in public space. Although they take place in a variety of cultural, social and political contexts, these protests share phenomenal features as public assemblies of embodied political subjects acting in their plurality, expressing one of the key features of democratic politics: dissent as an inalienable political right.

For this issue the editors are looking for contributions connecting Arendt’s approach to politics with the theme of this issue, either with reference to specific case(s) of protest or directed more at phenomenological and critical structure of the protests. The editors also want to address the issue of loss of legitimacy of liberal democracies for a better understanding of the causes of crises that lead people to take to the streets. Issues like: spaces of protest, speech / counter-speech, violence / non-violence, embodiment, solidarity and collectivity are some, but not all starting points for theorizing street protest with Hannah Arendt.

Please submit an abstract of up to 500 words by December 10, 2022. Confirmed contributions are to be submitted to [email protected] or [email protected] by March 31, 2023.