Protest Matters: The Objects, Art, and Affect of Resistance

Placards. Whistles. Pink, knitted “pussy” hats. Rainbow flags. Yard signs. Sage bundles. Drums. Pamphlets. Pots and pans. Padlocks. Buttons. Bull horns. Objects created or repurposed for protest have become emblematic of resistance to the Trump administration and related threats to social justice over the past year—in keeping with long histories of protest movements around the world. More than symbols, however, these objects become meaningful to the people who make and possess them—worn or displayed as badges of honor, and public identifiers of political opinion. Washington D.C., host to this year’s AAA meetings and a focal point for recent protests and rallies, is an ideal location in which to consider protest ephemera and the materiality of resistance from an anthropological perspective. We invite submissions of papers that address these broad themes from a variety of theoretical perspectives. Submissions may engage data collected in the United States, or elsewhere. Specific topics discussed may include, for example:

  • the dynamic relationship between art and activism, and feelings and things, in the context of protest;
  • the affective impact of taking part in public rallies and protests;
  • the sensorial experience of protesting and protest objects (i.e. colors, sounds, tactility, smells etc.)
  • how everyday objects can be transformed into political symbols;
  • the use of clothing, buttons, stickers etc. to assert opinions, project identities and/or to build community;
  • how preparation of protest objects (food, banners, puppets, etc.) forges connections between people;
  • how internet-based organizing has (or has not) changed the role of pamphlets, fly posters, zines, etc. in protest organizing and political messaging;
  • the role of anthropologists in documenting—and engaging in—social justice actions.

This panel will accompany and complement an interactive installation, “Protest Matters”, to which visitors are invited to contribute their own objects, and to record short video reflections on the memories and feelings that these artifacts evoke.

Please submit abstracts (250 words max.) for papers to be included on the panel to by midnight, Friday April 7. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by Sunday April 9.

Expressions of interest in contributing to the installation are also welcome, at the same address.