Here and Elsewhere: Phenomenological Reflections on the Time and Space of Mass Protests
This paper pursues a phenomenological clarification of the spatial and temporal constitution of the mass street protest experience. To bring into view its unique structure and meaning, I consider how a mass street protest is comparable to but importantly unlike other forms of resistant collective action that take place in public spaces: in particular, scenes of violent revolt (I draw on Sartre’s analysis of the storming of the Bastille in the Critique of Dialectical Reason) and Arendtian “spaces of appearance” that emerge in the context of revolutionary activity. I then argue that a crucial feature of the mass protest experience is that the protest always also takes place elsewhere and that it is an experience of what I call “the middle.” I conclude with reflections on what it might mean for a democratic politics to speak to and out of this feature of the experience. Drawing on Arendt, I propose an art of storytelling and historical comprehension.
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