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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/947z-a587


AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

Keeping the Fire Burning: Protests and Revolutionary Love



social movements


Social movements and lovers face the same conundrum: How do you keep the flame alive? The upheavals of first passion can be difficult to replicate over time. Yet repeatedly tapping into that feeling of truth and transcendence is key for a movement’s success (Marcus 2002). Just as protests and their aspirations repeatedly face repression, criticism, or even violence, so too are protestors confronted with setbacks and frustrations that complicate efforts to maintain a sense of change and possibility. The challenge lies in remaining engaged and keeping the faith despite feeling disaffected towards the status quo (Montoya 2018, 103). How can social movements keep their members committed and passionately involved as well as draw in new members over long periods of time? For James Baldwin (1962), this kind of passion wedded with responsibility stems from love. Similarly, many Native American and Chicanx activists in the US, as well as some Armenian activists, romanticize love as a “mode of revolutionary consciousness” (Shirinian 2020, 323). In postrevolutionary Egypt, notions of familial love helped ensure the survival of anti-harassment groups fighting sexual violence and other movements. Whether revolutionary or postrevolutionary, passionate or companionate, love enshrines a long-term readiness and commitment to fight alongside others, and with them, in order to thrash out solutions. While research so far has focused mostly on mobilization strategies and feelings of anger and resentment as motivations to participate in protests (Ayata and Harders 2019), in this roundtable, we ask about revolutionary love and the affects and emotions entangled with it. Some of these can be difficult, violent, or contradictory, like fear of loss, heartbreak, and melancholia (Segal 2016). To act out of fear is the opposite of acting out of love. By contrast, love and hate can be more difficult to tease apart. Moreover, love may run deeper than solidarity and political alignment, while potentially fuelling these, as it expresses kinship, belonging and caring for other beings, beyond utilitarian and formalized ends. Expanding the meaning of „the political“, and in contrast to politics in the strict sense, it fosters respect and trustful relationships. How does this love evolve and what kind of special rituals and routine practices do protesters adopt to keep their fire burning? How is it demonstrated, cultivated and protected against intrusion, tension, and setback in the long run? And what effects does this long-term engagement have on protesters (e.g. on their identity/subjectivity, social relations, lifestyle, vigilance)? Revolutionary love is not innocent or irresponsible. Rather than reproducing intersecting inequalities, it aims to transcend them. While it forges new relationships and visions for society, it can create tensions between protestors and their relatives and friends, e.g. in Sudanese struggles across intersectional hierarchies. We will therefore discuss how love and its related affects are (re-)defined, cultivated, practiced and expressed in various kinds of protests, including feminist/queer movements, social uprisings against authoritarian regimes and protests against racism and coloniality. By attending to these questions, we also reflect on how revolutionary love contributes to the re-imagination of anthropological debates and practices.


Transcript English (automatic)

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