248.2 Democratizing futures: Radical imaginaries, police repression, and public engagements of the occupy wall street movement

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 11:00 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Wall Street has been a prime target for popular protests ever since it had become a center of capitalist power and symbol of inequality. Yet most protests never made it into the news. Why then did the attempt on September 17, 2011 avoid oblivion and morph into a broader movement with branches in over 1,500 cities across the USA and abroad? How were activists able to invoke a coalition of the “99%” and put demands not only for socio-economic justice but also for participation onto agendas that had been dominated by budget shortfalls, tax cuts, and terrorism? How were free spaces created for experimenting with democratic alternatives? How did the groups of different cities resist varying forms of repression? How did different media forms and strategies shape the engagement with publics? How did the movement draw inspiration and mesh transnationally with other efforts for participatory reconfigurations of governance and economics? This paper explores the early history and prospect of the movement by tracing the interaction between grievances, micro/macro contextual opportunities and constraints, network capacities, and communicative practices. Multi-method focus on the experience in select cities shows not only enormous local variation but also varied modes of connecting sites of struggle. The paper concludes with a discussion of options for future action.