Power, Persuasion, and Disruption in Activist Politics
This panel assembles scholars from diverse theoretical perspectives to consider the complex registers of activist politics in times of democratic crisis. Dominant approaches in liberal and democratic theory conceptualize disobedient protest as either a mode of persuasive speech or an act of strategic coercion. The papers on this panel examine the protean registers of political action obscured by this dichotomy, and their transformative effects on subjects, affects, and institutions. What are the modes of power activists generate through dramatic, embodied, and disruptive acts of assembly? Do nondeliberative acts undermine the democratic values of free speech or can they function to strengthen deliberative democracy? Under what conditions do individual and collective acts of withdrawal, refusal, and self-sacrifice become expressions of political power? How does political action transform structures and reshape subjects not simply as its end but through its very means? This panel examines these questions through engagement with various theoretical paradigms and global case studies ranging from Black Lives Matter to contemporary performance art.