New book: “Youth Activism and Solidarity: the Non-Stop Picket against Apartheid”

Protest Camps Research Network member Gavin Brown has written a new book (with Helen Yaffe) about the Non-Stop Picket of the South African Embassy in London in the 1980s. In the introduction to Protest Camps in International Context (Policy Press, 2017) we described the Non-Stop Picket in the following terms:

Several of the chapters in this book actively seek to question the boundaries of what counts as a ‘protest camp’. The Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp clearly fits within commonly accepted understandings of a protest camp – it was a long-term, site-specific protest where people lived, congregated and took action together. On the other hand, one of the other most iconic long-term protests to take place in England in the 1980s is not so simply defined as a ‘protest camp’. For nearly four years, from 19 April 1986 until February 1990, anti-apartheid solidarity activists organised by the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group maintained a continuous protest outside the South African embassy in London. Despite being a continuous, long-term protest, nobody lived or slept outside the South African embassy. The protest’s physical infrastructure consisted of little more than a fabric banner (in later years, engineered so that it could be freestanding) and a few crates of equipment (that doubled up as seats, occasionally). The Non-Stop Picket demanded the unconditional release of Nelson Mandela and all political prisoners in South Africa, as well as calling for Britain to sever all political, economic, and cultural links with South Africa while apartheid existed. Positioned on the pavement directly in front of the main entrance to the embassy, the Non-Stop Picket was strategically located to draw attention to (and cause maximum embarrassment to) the apartheid regime’s representatives in Britain (Brown and Yaffe 2013; 2014).

The modest infrastructure of the Non-Stop Picket looked fragile against the large stone edifice of South Africa House, but it proved to be remarkably resilient. The Picket was a constant irritant to the ‘peace and dignity’ of South Africa’s diplomatic mission; and successfully resisted every attempt that was made to remove it (Brown 2013). With its ephemeral infrastructures, The Picket was able to never the less create a substantial antagonism to the Apartheid state and also enacted a transnational politics of solidarity with comparable protests taking places in front of South African embassies around the world (Metz 1986).

Gavin Brown and Helen Yaffe’s book Youth Activism and Solidarity: the Non-Stop Picket against Apartheid was published, by Routledge, in October. Their book tells the story of the Non-Stop Picket and the experiences and motivations of the (mostly) young people from London and across the world who were inspired to build a direct action-based anti-apartheid solidarity movement in Britain. Their book is simultaneously a history of a particular moment in British anti-apartheid activism; a study in the spatiality of solidarity and contentious protest; and a study of the place of young people in those social movements and in the urban landscape of London in the 1980s. The book offers new insights to the study of social movements and young people’s lives. It theorizes solidarity and the processes of adolescent development as social practices to provide a theoretically-informed, argument-led analysis of how young activists build and practice solidarity. A full outline of the book can be found here.

This book draws on interviews with former participants in the Non-Stop Picket and a range of archival material from that time. In the end, we interviewed 85 people who had been regular participants in the Non-Stop Picket. They were involved for varying lengths of time and with different levels of intensity and commitment. We also interviewed eight people who were close supporters of the picket – not necessarily people who spent a lot of time there, but high-profile politicians and public figures who attended periodically and could be relied on for vocal support at key times. They include some of the solicitors who helped defend arrested picketers in court. Although it had not been part of our initial plan, we managed to track down and interview eight retired police officers, of various ranks, who had been involved in policing City Group’s protests in the mid-1980s.

Image generated by GPL Ghostscript (device=pnmraw)

When City Group ceased to operate at the end of apartheid, some of the remaining members of the Group made plans to preserve the Group’s archive with a view to publishing their story. That publication never happened, but Gavin and Helen benefited from the decision to preserve a record of their anti-apartheid campaigning. They were lucky enough to be granted privileged access to this privately held archive. In addition to the Group’s correspondence, minutes of their meetings, membership records, and publicity material, there were witness statements from court cases, banners, and hundreds of photographs.

Youth Activism and Solidarity: The Non-Stop Picket Against Apartheid will be of interest to geographers, historians and a wide range of other social scientists concerned with the historical geography of the international anti-apartheid movement, social movement studies, contemporary British history, and young people’s activism and geopolitical agency.

The book is currently only published in hardback and retails for £105 (academic publishers tend to target the institutional library market first). However, if you order it through the Routledge website, you can use the discount code FLR40 to obtain a 20% discount. A more affordable paperback edition will be published next year. In the meantime, if you are in a position to order or request a copy for your school, university, or local community library, Gavin and Helen would appreciate your help in bringing the book to a wider audience.

If you are interested in reviewing the book for a newspaper, magazine, blog, or academic journal, review copies can be ordered here (at the publisher’s discretion).

 

 

 

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Upcoming Workshop: June 7th at University of Leicester

Protest Camps and Beyond: Temporality, Informality, Memory and Care

protest camp june workshop

Camps offer an increasingly visible form of housing and shelter in the contemporary world. Notionally temporary, camps seem to form a permanent social reality reflecting an increasingly permanent state of crisis of social reproduction globally. We witness, on the one hand, state and supra-state agencies employing camps as attempts to manage flows of migration and refuge, or in responses to natural disasters. On the other hand, camps emerge more autonomously, in defiance of the control associated with the managerial provision of care, and in response to the limits of state and supra-state care provision. Finally camps have become an ever more present social movement tactic, often explicitly addressing concerns of social reproduction.

Following Hailey’s (2009) typology camps can be cast as expressions of necessity, control and autonomy. In the context of the contemporary proliferation of camp architectures, it seems evidence that those three types of camps increasingly overlap. Protest camps, cast as autonomous expressions of political questionings of the status quo (Feigenbaum, Frenzel, & McCurdy, 2013) express concerns about a crisis of social reproduction. In recent years new protest camps have often focused on issues such as housing, but also addressed specifically the threats to life emerging from the continuous exploitation of natural resources. Protest camps form a site of contestation, but they also provide places in which sustainable and resilient alternatives are experimented with, created, and practiced. A key feature uniting many protest camps and other place-based protests is the politicisation of care. To the extent that camps produce forms of shelter and care, they also have to grapple with the challenges and contradictions of autonomous care provision.

In this one day seminar we want to approach the theme from three thematic angles:

1) Informality and Temporality

2) Memory-Visibility

3) Care as resilience and resistance

We will have inputs and provocations followed by discussions on each of the themes, attempting to avoid the classical academic formats in order to achieve some productive movements and explore options for collaboration. We finish the day with a book launch and celebration of the recently published Protest Camps In International Context edited by Gavin Brown, Anna Feigenbaum, Fabian Frenzel and Patrick McCurdy.

Timetable

10:00 Gathering (Refreshments available)

10:30 Informality and Temporality

12:00 Lunch

13:30 Memory and Visibility

15:00 Coffee

15:30 Care as Resilience and Resistance

17:00 Book Launch Celebration for Protest Camps in International Context

The seminar is free to attend but places are limited. Please register here.

Some travel busaries are available to participants. To apply pleased sent an email to Fabian Frenzel , Anna Feigenbaum or Gavin Brown explaining your interest in the seminar and possible contributions on the day. This could be, for example, a provocation (5 mins) based on research project or and proposal for a collaborative project.

References

Feigenbaum, A., Frenzel, F., & McCurdy, P. (2013). Protest Camps. London: Zed Books.

Hailey, C. (2009). Camps : a guide to 21st-century space. Cambridge Mass.: MIT Press.

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AAG 2017 Panel Session: Protest Camps

The politics of Care and Social Reproduction in contemporary social movement politics

 AAG 2017 Panel Session

Organised by Protest Camps Research collective

From the Tent City Uni to Warwick: Occupy the University

Though their history is much longer, since the uprisings and protests of 2011, protest camps have gained prominence in waves of contentious politics, deployed by movements with a wide array of demands for social change. Whether erected in a park in Istanbul or a street in Mexico City, the significance of political encampments rests in their position as distinctive material and mediated spaces where people come together to imagine alternative worlds and articulate contentious politics, often in confrontation with the state.

A key uniting feature of many protest camps and other place-based protests is the politicisation of care. In recent years new protest camps have often addressed unfolding crises of social reproduction, such as housing, but also addressed specifically the threats to life emerging from the continuous exploitation of natural resources. Protest camps form the site of contestation, but they also provide places in which sustainable and resilient alternatives are experimented with, created, and practiced.

This panel brings together scholarship on protest camps and place-based, ongoing protest in all their varied manifestations. Our argument that protest camps cut across social movements is not a structuralist one, instead, it is as an orientation to an understudied practice enacted within many social movements. Our objective, then, is to extract protest camps from their silo-ed location within specific movements and consider the relations, connections, similarities and differences in their forms across time and space.

In recent years, new scholarship on protest camps has appeared, mainly driven by reflections on the Arab Spring (Gerbaudo 2012; Ramadan 2013), M15 (Castañeda 2012), and Occupy (Juris 2012; Kidd, 2014; Pickerill and Krinsky, 2012), either individually, or as linked phenomena (Feigenbaum et al 2013; Frenzel et al 2014). There has also been work that draws comparisons between the strategic and tactical functions of past and present protest camps (Leidinger 2011, 2015).

Recently, new protest camps and place-based protest have also emerged, as capital-led globalisation continues to undermine the social and ecological basis of human society. In Northern America, coalitions of indigenous land right activists and climate change protestors utilise land occupations to challenge the expansion of settler societies land grabs, often for the purpose of resource extraction.

Global migrant mobilities challenge border regimes globally, claiming the human right of freedom of movement and a world without borders. In migrant struggles, autonomous camps set up by migrant activists, as seen in Calais, have become key infrastructures, providing shelter and political bargaining power, as well as enabling the politicisation of migrant solidarity.

Challenging the failure of housing provision in global capital-led real estate regimes, people have organised themselves in tent cities and occupied disused buildings. Under precarious conditions facing repression and discrimination, tent cities provide shelter, protection and organising spaces for challenges to the status quo. Example such as the tiny house movement show attempts to develop a new politics of autonomous housing.

This panel reflects on shared challenges across different movements and approaches to studying protest camps and place-based, on-going protests. It brings together case studies, as well as to identify ways in which research in this field can be further connected. We are interested in both materialist perspectives that focus on protest infrastructures, as well as alternative conceptual readings of protest camps. In particular, we are interested in questions of social reproduction, power, and the politics of care as they play out in these unique social movement settings.

We invite activists and scholars from a broad range of disciplinary backgrounds to present their empirical and conceptual work on protest camps, tent cities, refugee camps, squats and related place-based, on-going sites of protest.

We invite 10 minute inputs, rather than full papers, to enable plenty discussion time. Presenting at the panel, per AAG policy, does not conflict with presenting a paper at another session.
If you are interested in contributing to this panel, please send a brief outline of what you would like to talk about to Fabian Frenzel at ff48 (at) le.ac.uk by 15 October 2016.

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Why politics needs arts & crafts

By Dr Anna Feigenbaum, lecturer in Media & Politics and contributor to the ‘Disobedient Objects’ exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Inflatable cobblestones, book blocs, musical pot lids. This week these objects joined the Victoria & Albert Museum’s collection, taking their place in design history alongside Grecian pottery and fashion couture. Curated by Gavin Grindon and Catherine Flood, the V&A’s Disobedient Objectsshow serves as much as an intervention than as an exhibition. Its 99 objects from social movements around the world ask us to rethink what counts both as art and as politics.

From brightly coloured, hand-woven tapestries to a rice sacks with head and armhole cut-outs, the show’s disobedient objects range from refashioned rubbish to intricate craftwork. While everyday items like tea cups or water bottles may not be inherently ‘disobedient’, repurposed here as objects of solidarity and makeshift tear gas masks, they take up status as ‘disobedient.’

concrete lock-on at protest

Other objects showcased in the exhibition were intentionally designed for disobedience. The shields adorned with images of climate refugees used to transport pop-up tents at Climate Camp in 2007 are an excellent example of how spectacular art created spectacular media images, and swayed public opinion. Similarly, the ‘dragon’ concrete lock-ons made infamous in the anti-roads actions of the 1990′s show how protest sites often become innovative centres of disobedient design.

There is as much variety in these objects as there is in the people who made them. Artistic credits for the show include professional architectures, sculptors trained in world-leading art schools, gardeners, electricians, prisoners, students and anonymous collective assemblies of all kinds of people. These objects are neither art of the institution, nor art simply made outside of the institution. Rather, they are blends of both, the products of imagination as it travels between cultures and countries.

Cacerolazo

Just as our conception of art is disrupted by this exhibition of disobedient design, so too are our ideas of politics. Normally, when we think about what makes up politics, talking comes to mind. Politics is debates and speeches. It is dealing with campaign donations and soliciting support at gala dinners. It is the fighting, the demanding, and, all too often, the lying of our political leaders.

But these disobedient objects open up a different kind of politics. They give way to a politics of the senses. They showcase campaigners’ sensibility of political norms that enables them to anticipate and out-design their opponents. This politics can manifest as sound; the sing-song banging in unison of cacerolazo pan lids. Other times it is found in acts of collective sleeping – a politics shared through open-source designs for winterising protest camp tents. Often this different kind of politics is expressed in signs, flavoured with humour and pop culture savvy, as in the hanging hand-painted cardboard: ‘I wish my boyfriend was as dirty as your policies’ that now adorns the V&A (and its gift shop rack of postcards).

Rinky Tink bicycle sound system at Heathrow demonstration (Fabian Frenzel)

These are just some of the crafted politics of everyday people that arise when voices go unheard. Marred by low voter turnout and growing distrust, traditional politics is desperate for creativity. It is begging for new ideas to get beyond its self-perpetuating bureaucracies and stale public school styles. But to carry on, politics needs innovation from below. It needs to learn to better craft possibilities and policies from the perspective of the people. AsDisobedient Objects shows, real change can only come when the imagination challenges the institution—and wins.

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Camps and long-term protests against apartheid

For four years in the late 1980s, a small group of campaigners in London maintained a continuous protest outside the South African Embassy in protest at apartheid. They were calling for the release of Nelson Mandela and all political prisoners in South Africa and Namibia. Their Non-Stop Picket of South Africa House kept going, day and night, until Nelson Mandela was released from gaol in February 1990. Gavin Brown writes, for the last three years, Helen Yaffe and I have been recording the history of the Non-Stop Picket. In this post, I examine the role of camps and long-term protests in the international campaign against apartheid.

The Non-Stop Picket was launched on 19 April 1986 in the context of ongoing unrest and mass mobilizations in South Africa.  At the time, the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group (who organised the Picket) probably over-estimated how close the apartheid regime was to collapse. Few of the original picketers who we have interviewed really believed, at that point, that they would need to keep the Picket going, non-stop, for the next 1408 days and nights.

Non-Stop Picket of South Africa House, London, 1986 (Source: City of London Anti-Apartheid Group)

Non-Stop Picket of South Africa House, London, 1986 (Source: City of London Anti-Apartheid Group)

The Picket occupied a few square metres of pavement outside embassy for nearly 46 months without anyone camping there. To keep going, the picket relied on a weekly rota. Each day was divided into three or six-hour shifts, and individual supporters pledged to do a regular shift each week (or as often as they could).  Some shifts survived with just two or three regular picketers, others could attract dozens each week. Attempts were made to fill any gaps in the rota for the week ahead at the group’s regular Friday meetings, and one volunteer was always on call to respond to unexpected shortfalls and emergencies (like the couple of times the police arrested the entire protest).

Without anyone living on site, the Non-Stop Picket did not have to provide many of the practical ‘re-creational infrastructures’ (Feigenbaum, Frenzel and McCurdy 2013) common to many protest camps. Picketers used nearby public toilets or the facilities  in the area’s many cafes and fast food outlets. These were also the places were picketers went to eat during breaks or at the end of their shifts. But food was provided in others ways too – one of the Picket’s older supporters (who was unable to sustain standing on the protest for any length of time) would drive down once a week to deliver home-made vegetarian pizza; the staff at local restaurants would donate unsold food at the end of business; and passing supporters would unexpectedly deliver a round of hot drinks or snacks. Protest camps are often thought of as exceptional spaces; but, in many ways, the longer the Non-Stop Picket existed, the more it inserted itself into the everyday rhythms of central London.

The Non-Stop Picket in London was not the only long-term anti-apartheid protest to target one of South Africa’s overseas diplomatic missions. The City of London Anti-Apartheid Group had organised a previous non-stop picket in London in 1982.  On that occasion, they stayed outside the embassy for 86 days demanding that David Kitson (the imprisoned husband of the group’s founded) and other political prisoners in South Africa should be moved off Death Row in Pretoria. That picket ended when David Kitson and his comrades were moved to ‘healthier’ prison accommodation.

In the year before the Non-Stop Picket for Nelson Mandela was launched in 1986, anti-apartheid campaigners in the United States protested outside the South African Consulate in Washington DC everyday for a year (1984 – 1985). The longest anti-apartheid embassy protest, however, was probably in Canberra. There, inspired by the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, protesters set up the South African Liberation Centre on a patch of land opposite the South African Embassy. With the aid of the building workers’ union, this became housed in a permanent structure. Although the South African Liberation Centre was not necessarily continually occupied, it nevertheless served as a constant reminder of opposition to apartheid in front of the South African Embassy.

South African Liberation Centre, Canberra, 1989 (Source: James Godfrey)

South African Liberation Centre, Canberra, 1989 (Source: James Godfrey)

Solidarity protests outside South African consulates, high commissions and embassies around the world drew attention to the brutality of apartheid and contributed to international pressure on the South African government. Although these protests attracted participants of all ages, they were particularly successful in appealing to young people who wanted to take action against apartheid.

Camps of a different kind attracted South African youth who wanted to take action against apartheid. From the point the African National Congress (ANC) and Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) were banned by the South African government in 1960, the liberation movements set up exiled infrastructures outside the country. Cadre were smuggled out of South Africa and sent for military training in China, the Soviet Bloc and recently decolonized countries across Africa. In the 1960s, all of the countries bordering South Africa were still under colonial rule, providing a buffer zone for apartheid and a barrier to anti-apartheid guerrillas re-entering South Africa. In practice, once trained, these guerrillas ended up stranded in military holding camps in Tanzania, Zambia, and (later) Angola. From the 1960s onwards, hundreds of young people crossed the border and went searching for a guerrilla army to join. Many of them faced a long wait in the ANC’s military camps. Although some saw military action against the South African army in Angola, relatively few were smuggled back into South Africa to pursue the ‘people’s war’ they thought they were being trained for. Life in the Angolan camps was basic and could be boring. Paranoia about enemy agents was rampant and those who protested about their conditions or demanded to be deployed inside South Africa were often punished brutally (as Stephen Ellis and Paul Trewhela have, controversially, documented). Further research needs to be done to fully document life in these camps.

Neither the participants in the international embassy protests, nor those left waiting in ANC (and PAC) camps across Southern Africa played a decisive role in ending apartheid. But the existence and presence of their very different ‘protest camps’ were (in different ways) of symbolic importance to the international campaign against apartheid. Any future study of the role of camps in the anti-apartheid struggle will need to take both formations into account. Similarly, both the long-term embassy protests and the exiled military camps disrupt taken-for-granted assumptions about what constitutes a ‘protest camp’.

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Working with protest camps: Participatory Methods Training (London)

Invitation to Participatory Methods Training

25th August 2014, London

The Participatory Geographies Research Group is organising a training day to offer both theoretical and practical advice on participatory methods. Activities we aim to do on the day include:

  • Keynote speakers from geography and other disciplines
  • Workshops on specific methods (e.g. visual approaches, militant ethnography)
  • Bring non-academic approaches in dialogue with academics, in particular from those involved in facilitation, collective work and social change.
  • Provide help for PhD students dealing with challenges at different stages in their research.
  • Explore the opportunities and challenges of working with participatory methods across disciplines.
  • Engage in forms of participatory activities on the day.
  • Provide an open space to discuss common dilemmas and find ways of supporting each other.

We hope to be able to provide a limited number of students with travel bursaries, details to follow. Pending the responses from our funding application, we may ask for a £10 contribution per person to cover costs (including lunch).

For now, we would ask for expressions of interest, letting us know (i) if you would like to attend, (ii) if you have a particular interest for what we do on the day, (iii) if you would like to volunteer to take part in the organisation in any way (e.g. provide a workshop), and (iv) if you have any other ideas or question.

Please contact: sam.halvorsen.10@ucl.ac.uk, jp109@leicester.ac.uk, or gs210@leicester.ac.uk

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Hot off the Press! Protest Camps Book Launch Events

protest camps_hot off the pressHot off the press, Protest Camps hits indie bookshop and digital shelves worldwide on October 10th, 2013. To celebrate the publication of our book, we’re taking part in a number of events. From bookfair talks to festival workshops, Protest Camps’ Anna Feigebaum, Fabian Frenzel and Patrick McCurdy will be visiting cities across the UK and beyond:

October 19th – London Anarchist Bookfair
October 21st – London, The Organisation of the Organisationless – Talks in Digital Culture #1, King’s College London
October 26th – Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair 2013
October 29th – Leicester, New Perspectives on Anarchism and Management, Centre for Philosophy and Political Economy
October 30th – Bournemouth, Protest Camps and Dissent PR
November 2nd – London, ESRC Festival of Social Science, Creating Worlds Together: A workshop on Experimentations and Protest Camps
November 6th –  Johannesburg, Wits University
November 13th to 14th – Bournemouth, PSA Media and Politics Group Conference
November 20th to 21st – Leicester, Generations of Protest Conference                     December 11th – Berlin, Institute for Protest and Social Movement Studies in collaboration with Rosa Luxemburg Foundation @ Franz-Mehring-Platz 1, 19.00h.

Available at local indie booksellers and for online order order in the UK & in the US.
For more on the broader Protest Camps Research Network visit protestcamps.org 
Follow us on twitter @protestcamps

To host a Protest Camps event, explore possibilities for collaboration, or co-design a workshop with us, get in touch!

About Protest Camps the book
From Tahrir Square to Occupy, from the Red Shirts in Thailand to the Teachers in Oaxaca, protest camps are a highly visible feature of social movements’ activism across the world. They are spaces where people come together to imagine alternative worlds and articulate contentious politics, often in confrontation with the state. Drawing on over 50 different protest camps from around the world over the past 50 years, this book offers a ground-breaking and detailed investigation into protest camps from a global perspective – a story that, until now, has remained untold.

Taking the reader on a journey across different cultural, political and geographical landscapes of protest, and drawing on a wealth of original interview material, the authors demonstrate that protest camps are unique spaces in which activists can enact radical and often experiential forms of democratic politics.

‘The phenomenon of protest camps is finally given the attention it deserves. With an international remit and a huge range of historical and contemporary examples, Feigenbaum, Frenzel and McCurdy provide a theoretically robust yet also highly readable and inspiring investigation of what protest camps are, do, achieve and challenge. What is more it is packed full of great photographs, cartoons and diagrams.’
– Dr Jenny Pickerill, Reader in Environmental Geography, University of Leicester

‘Much has been written about recent protests as digital networks, but too little about the physical process of continuously occupying significant space. Feigenbaum, Frenzel and McCurdy’s wonderful book brings a fresh perspective to our understanding of contemporary political action, connecting to the history of occupations and offering smart conceptual tools for analysing both recent and historical events in all their richness, messiness and hidden order. A fine achievement.’
– Nick Couldry, London School of Economics and Political Science

‘An exciting, engaging and energizing book, Protest Camps is required reading for activists and academics interested in the history, politics and practice of the occupation of public space as a creative form of extra-parliamentary action.’
-Sasha Roseneil, author of Disarming Patriarchy: feminism and political action at Greenham, Professor of Sociology and Social Theory, Birkbeck University of London.

‘Analysing the global history and radical infrastructures of protest camps this book provides a captivating cartography that helps heal the chasm between how we live our everyday life and what our political ideas are, how we protest against the old world whilst proposing new ones. Best read (and discussed) around a (protest) camp fire.’
-John Jordan, artist, activist and co-founder of the direct action protest movement ‘Reclaim the Streets’.

 

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