Occupy: The spatial dynamics of discourse in global protest movements
  • ISSN 1569-2159
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9862
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A key feature of the Occupy movement has been the General Assembly (GA), in which participants, gathered in outdoor public space, engaged in emergent forms of direct deliberative democratic practice. GAs created opportunities for renewed, co-constructed discourses about human rights, collectivity and autonomy, and the nature of fairness. The physical, durative occupation of public space and establishment of encampments enabled participants to converse and collaborate meaningfully about these matters and their implications for action. An attested ideology of horizontalism was produced and reflected in practices of decision-making within a direct participatory democratic framework. The generation of local intersubjectivity and global solidarity as well as the embodied augmentation of personal and group agency were lodged within face-to-face interactions at Occupy GAs. Participants developed and adapted specific embodied tools for assembly use, including hand signals and the human mic, to facilitate a discursive praxis of egalitarianism within the context of a speech exchange system suited to a large outdoor deliberative body. These practices are central to the Occupy movement, as they constitute the discursive experiments in direct democracy set in motion by a shared recognition of social crisis and systemic injustice felt increasingly around the world. This paper examines how several embodied practices at Occupy Los Angeles attend to participants’ attested ideologies and the practical problems of open, large-group direct democracy. Keywords: Occupy; people’s mic; human mic; hand signals; assembly; interaction; horizontalism; stance; direct democracy; deliberative democracy; public space; embodiment; discourse analysis; participation


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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