‘Exit the system’: Crafting the place of protest camps between antagonism and exception.
University of the West of England.
Protest camps have been a prominent feature of social movement activity in the last three decades. More than a means to enable protest in remote locations, protest camps have often been constituted as autonomous and alternative worlds, set antagonistically against the status quo. Protest camps however don’t actually leave the legal and political realm of status quo but are arguable play-acting at doing so. This raises the question of the ontological status of the protest camp in relation to the status quo.
Drawing from Agamben’s thesis of the camp as the ‘nomos of modernity’, this article argues that protest camps are in danger of constituting an antagonism that resides on a different ontological plane than the status quo, becoming an exception to it. Rather than contesting the status quo, they might stabilise and strengthen it. Examining data from a series of protest camp, this article analyses how protest campers have been increasingly successful in crafting an antagonism without becoming an exception. It identifies learning processes between different protest camps and shows that new challenges arise in the light of recent successes.
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