Creating Space by Spreading Atmospheres: Protest Movements From a Phenomenological Perspective
How are spaces constituted through social action, and how do they constitute social action? We address these questions by studying how protesters appropriate spaces by occupying streets and public buildings and by spreading specific atmospheres. We apply Alfred SCHÜTZ's phenomenological take on the constitution of multiple realities in terms of "province of meaning" as a heuristic device to capture the diversity of protest atmospheres along with their spatial, affective, and epistemic dimensions—those embodied and situated as well as virtual. This perspective allows us to describe empirical examples of protest situations in South Africa and Senegal where "the streets" and the media meet. Our research material spans documents, tweets, video material collected online, and ethnographic interviews. In this article, we look at how embodied practices reproduce and manifest particular "provinces of meaning" and "protest atmospheres," and how these embodied practices are complemented by social media practices. Our proposed approach not only provides an example of how a social space is created and refigured through social protest, but also allows a further understanding of the situational emergence of protests as collective action that creates "we-experiences." The phenomenological perspective goes beyond the widespread mind/body dualism that underlies so many interpretations of social movement culture.
Copyright (c) 2021 Sandrine Gukelberger, Christian Meyer
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