Mediating Social Spaces of Dissent: A Methodological Exploration

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 09:15
Oral Presentation
Ian LAMOND, Leeds Beckett University, United Kingdom
Esther SOLANO, Universidade Federal de São paulo, Brazil
Vitor BLOTTA, University of São Paulo, Brazil
In this paper we argue that in order to grasp the ontic and epistemic roots of current social movements, and discuss possible actions towards and practices of dissent in Western democracies, it is necessary to use new approaches and methodologies that cut across different disciplines, such as sociology, critical event studies, communication and law. Moreover, these studies should go beyond the traditional methods of these disciplines, such as public opinion surveys, descriptive analysis of empirical data on violence and law enforcement, or traditional anthropological studies and discourse analysis. We begin by addressing the apparently contradictory challenges to present democracies, such as the rise of counter-democratic social movements, followed by a literature review that presents new approaches to concepts around political dissent, such as protests as events, public spaces and the city as both symbolic and concrete venues, violence as performance, and the social mediation role of media and communication channels. After that, we challenge the dichotomies of traditional methods used to analyze these concepts, such as ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’, ‘objectivity’ and ‘subjectivity’ or “researcher” and “object”. We conclude proposing a combination of techniques that connects values from personal narratives and group storytelling with militant research approaches that question the divisions between academic knowledge and social practices, and establish horizontal relations among researchers and participants, highlighting knowledge production as a tool for social transformation into more egalitarian societies. This method challenges the apparent predefined social places of researchers, research participants, and political actors, taking them out of their "comfort zones", and gathering them around spaces that foment dialogues that are not common in everyday research and dissent practices. These dialogues may, in the end, enable the participants and researchers to learn from each other, and transform themselves and their agencies in the research process.