Democracy of Public Spaces: World Wide Protests

We are witnessing a new type of worldwide protest. From the Arab world to the western capitals, from Turkey to Brazil, a wave of protest movements, in spite of the differences among them, all use public space to manifest new forms of citizenship. They all reveal a gap between social agency and the political agenda – and solicit new approaches to established concepts of democracy.

Tahrir Square in Egypt, Occupy Wall Street in the United States, the “indignados” in European cities, Gezi Park in Istanbul and the protest movements in Brazil: they have all generated new democratic imaginaries.  The protestors have continued to sustain their public presence in spite of violence, favoured civic resistance, invented new forms of public agency in which visual arts and performativity became a mode of public expression. These new protest movements are different from the organized political movements of the past and they lack a core ideology. They are also different from the identity movements of the 1980s, such as feminism or Islamism, yet they generate a sense of cohesion, a collective force that enables them to mobilize civic resistance. They defy political authoritarianism and reject neo-capitalism. They unsettle the divide between the East and the West, but also between the religious and the secular. They open up a new space, a public space for democratic imaginaries, bringing the micropolitics of everyday life into the realm of democracy.

Nilüfer Göle is Professor of Sociology at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales - in Paris. She works on religious and cultural difference in Europe and the modes of Islamic visibility in the public sphere. She is the author of Islam in Europe: The Lure of Fundamentalism and the Allure of Cosmopolitanism. Her pioneer work on the contemporary Islamic headscarf, The Forbidden Modern: Veiling and Civilization  has been published in several languages.  She edited a book on Islam and public controversies in Europe, forthcoming in January 2014.

Aditya Nigam is Professor at Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

Thursday, 5 December 2013, 5.30 pm
CSDS Seminar Hall