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Panel 20. Global mobilizations? Lessons from the 2010-2019 cycle of protests across North and South


  • Daniela Vicherat Mattar, Associate Professor, Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs, Leiden University, Netherlands,


Iraq, Bolivia, Indonesia, France, Chile, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Gaza, South Africa, Spain, are some of the countries that in 2019 experienced intense contentious moments, with mases of protestors occupying the streets of major cities to voice their discontent in public spaces. Roughly a decade earlier similar dynamics took place: starting with the Arab Spring various countries beyond the Arab world experienced popular uprisings that spanned from the Indignados in Spain, to various Occupy movements across the US, Canada, the UK and other European cities, to students protests in various Latin American countries.

With this in mind, it is possible to speak of a decade of global mobilizations and discontent between 2010-2019. What are the particularities of this decade of global contentious politics experienced in the global north and south? Unlike previous periods, for instance decade of contentious politics that preceded this cycle starting with the alter-globalization protests in Seattle in 1999, the 2010-2019 decade of uprisings lacked global coordination (for instance, the uprisings were not affiliated to the specific critique of the World Trade Organization nor the organization of the World Social Forum) and motivation (there was no unitary slogan, like the global anti-capitalist and alter-globalization agendas of the precedent decade). In fact, what characterizes the 2010-2019 decade of contentious politics is a high fragmentation of demands in reaction to rising forms of inequality; state, police and criminal violence; and a general resentment towards shrinking civic spaces, both in material and symbolic terms. This later aspect became exacerbated during the pandemic and its restrictions, and served to apparently demobilized the effervescent discontent of the past decade without really transforming the conditions that led to these uprisings.

This panel invites scholars and activists that want to explore similarities and differences between the movements that have taken place during the 2010-2019 decade, with particular focus on the role public spaces played in hosting them, and how the different forms of occupation have defined different dynamics of contention in the relations between the state and civil society. The aim is not to read these cases under a unitary understanding global discontent. Rather, the intention is to trigger a conversation about how different forms of occupying and mobilizing in- and through- public spaces have led to both processes of authoritarian resolution of the conflicts (like in the case of Egypt) or a spiral of democratic failures (like the case of the Chilean process of re-writing its constitution). The aim is to explore together the power, potentialities and limitations mobilization in public spaces have for activating a different kind of politics.

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