Direct Action Protest: Performance, Violence, and Mass Media ➜

Another aspect of my research explores the performative dimension of direct action protests—or the ways activists use their bodies to not only occupy space and challenge authority but also to make their struggles visible and convey particular cultural-political meanings and identities. Questions I have asked include: How do social movements communicate their struggles to a wider audience? Why do they use specific protest tactics, be they non-violent, carnivalesque, or militant? How can we make sense of the most spectacular and violent protest tactics? What is the role of emotions during direct action protests? How are direct action protests covered in the mass media?

My research has found that direct action protests are physical spaces where activists meet, emotions are generated, meanings are produced and contested, and political imaginaries are enacted and made visible through symbolic performance. For activists, mass actions involve a strategic tension. Direct action protests are key tools for generating the emotions and visibility needed to sustain movements over time, but there may be a contradiction between their internal and external effects. In this sense, the most spectacular and confrontational actions elicit more powerful feelings of excitement and solidarity, but they are also more likely to draw negative media attention while public interest in mass direct actions eventually wanes. Organizers and radicals in particular thus have to balance the need for affective solidarity and sustainability, while also managing the tension between the emotional and mass media impacts of political protest.


Reflections on #Occupy Everywhere: Social Media, Public Space, and Emerging Logics of Aggregation (PDF)
Jeffrey S. Juris (2012). American Ethnologist 39 (2): 259-279.

☛ Networking Futures: The Movements Against Corporate Globalization
Jeffrey S. Juris (2008). Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.

☛ Performing Politics: Image, Embodiment, and Affective Solidarity during Anti-Corporate Globalization Protests (PDF)
Jeffrey S. Juris (2008). Ethnography 9(1): 61-97.

☛ Violence Performed and Imagined: Militant Action, the Black Bloc, and the Mass Media in Genoa (PDF)
Jeffrey S. Juris (2005). Critique of Anthropology 25(4): 413-432.