Linking Types of Protest Tactics and Structural Conflicts: Some Key Points from the Study of the Social Form of the Protest in the Basque Country

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 11:01
Location: Elise Richter Saal (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Arkaitz LETAMENDIA, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Niue
Do structural material conflicts –around the modes of distribution of resources or the control of coercive means of the national state- incentivize material and disruptive tactics of protest –like strikes, barricades or confrontational direct actions? On the other hand, do cultural and symbolic conflicts –around the recognition of minority identities or moral questions- encourage auto-expressive, visually symbolic and dramatized tactics of collective action –like parodies, performances and audiovisual modes of protest?

I suggest that nowadays this connection between types of conflict and protest is not total. To develop this idea, I present the concept of Social Form of the Protest, which refers to the characteristic types of conflict and protest tactics in a concrete place and time. Through the Protest Event Analysis technique, I apply it to the Basque case in the 1980-2013 period. In this case, I establish how whereas the structural conflicts remain fundamentally material –struggles around national liberation and modes of distribution of wealth-, the protest repertoires become progressively more auto-expressive, parodic and visually symbolic. To explain this process, I consider the dialectic interaction between creativity of protesters, repression of authorities and aesthetization of social practices caused by the specialization of time in the global late capitalism. Finally, I propose that in order to promote deep social changes through collective action, a certain coherence between types of protest tactics and structural conflicts –in function of their respective degree of materiality and symbolism- is required.