Theorising ‘Movement Waves' and the Making of Collective Subjects
Rather than following similar trajectories, as some accounts suggest, their developmental paths seem to be marked by inner conflicts, dramatic encounters, moments of strategic divergence, turning points and other features that seem to demand ‘narrative’ rather than purely ‘mechanical’ or ‘structural’ accounts. Every ‘wave’ of protest involves its own dynamics of diffusion, which in turn, involve interpretation, argument, etc., that suggests adaptation and reworking, as well as joining claims to others in new contexts and across contexts. Importantly, in order for a movement ‘wave’ to be a movement wave, of any size or scale, it must also be an expansive project of collective subject-making; there must be some centripetal force drawing together the collective subject. Drawing from dialogical approaches to social movements and from theories of distributed cognition, this paper proposes a new approach to understanding why protest seems to spread and scale up at some times rather than others, and remain constrained and localized at others.