John Michael Roberts (2008): Public spaces of dissent

Blackwell Synergy – Sociology Compass, Volume 2 Issue 2 Page 654-674, March 2008 (Full Text)

This article looks at some recent developments in the relationship between public space and dissent. The article does this by firstly distinguishing between dissent and resistance. Dissent is based broadly around disagreements between individuals in particular groups and contexts against a perceived grievance of some sort. As a result dissent can arise in a variety of contexts, especially within everyday life, popular culture, and with small acts of defiance against frustrations one experiences. These acts can also assume more overtly political modes in the form of resistance as when people demonstrate in the streets. The distinction is therefore useful because it helps us understand how the state and other governance mechanisms adopt policies and strategies to pre-empt dissent and thereby prevent dissent from spilling over into resistance located in particular places. The article will examine how the state and governance have changed the way in which they pre-empt the formation of spaces of dissent in order to effectively regulate them in the pre- and post-9/11 climate. Taking
examples from the USA and the UK, the paper explores these points through global social movements, law and dissent, planning and designing dissent, and the surveillance of dissent.

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