Call for papers: Social Uprisings: Destruction and Significant Experience of Violence

The journal SOCIO is launching a call for papers on the theme Social Uprisings: Destruction and Significant Experience of Violence. The dossier is co-ordinated by Pauline Hachette (Université de Paris 8) and Romain Huët (Université Rennes 2). Proposals for contribution (title, two page summary and bibliography) should reach SOCIO before 26 October 2020. Submitted articles will be due by 15 March 2021.

Social Uprisings:
Destruction and Significant Experience of Violence

General problematization: social uprisings and resurgence of violence

Since 2010 strong protests have characterised a considerable number of national contexts. While on each occasion, they refer to specific political situations and issues there are a number of shared experiences and consistent narratives. To the classical resources for debate (addressing vulnerability, injustice, economic inequality, etc.) we have in addition demands for enhancement of lifestyles, (Macé, 2016) in short, an existential transformation of everyday life (Didi-Huberman), 2016). This return of the cultural, even romantic register, to the political stage poses questions both from the point of view of what it says about this day and age, as about its capacity to outline a future,  perspectives in the organisation of the world and in dealing with the contingencies of capitalism.

The contemporary upheavals are also one-off in so far as they tend to be assorted at one point or another with violence which varies in intensity. In France, riots, illegal demonstrations which get out of control are observed in many demonstrations (ZAD (Zone to Defend) against the Labour law or Parcoursup (Students), Gilets Jaunes (yellow vests) movement, etc.). At international level, the year 2019 was also marked by a rise in rioting (Chili, Lebanon, Bolivia, Iraq, Hong Kong, etc.). During this particularly turbulent year, Algeria was the exception. This upsurge in violence, usually of low intensity, is a source of anxiety, in particular given the realization that the resort to discussion has broken down and the democratic system seems to have difficulty in confronting the rise in radical postures, public impatience and the angry outbursts and fits of rage. The American experience in May-June 2020, in the context of protests against police violence and racism, demonstrates that the intensity of the violence can rise considerably.

There are two central questions underlying this dossier: why is the resort to violence and to material destruction so attractive that many people readily actively participate in it? The second question is political: what is the meaning of the contemporary generalisation of practices of violence and destructive action and what existential expectations do they conceal? In other words, what do these phenomena tell us about our present age, the attitudes which are developing towards the world and the ways in which the rebels attempt to contain it?

Axis 1. The socio-political conditions for violence

When confronted with violence, researchers usually attempt to identify the social and psychological factors which explain why the actors resort thereto. The scientific issue is one of revealing the biographical and sociological trajectories of the militants, the processes through which they pass which result in envisaging violent action, their social context, the relations of sociability and the theories which, in the last resort, deprive violence of  its guilt (see, in particular, Crayton, 1983; Wieviorka, 2004; Sommier, 2008). In this connection, the 2005 riots gave rise to extremely interesting considerations concerning the socio-political conditions which promoted them (Bertho, 2016). More generally speaking, a number of sociological studies endeavour to detect the causes of violence by taking into consideration the cultural and socio-political context. More recently, studies are developing aimed at understanding both the processes which lead to violence and the ways which would enable an “exit from violence” (Dozon and Wieviorka, 2020). This dossier hopes to receive contributions which will update these sociological analyses in relation to the national contexts in which these uprisings have taken place.

Axis 2. The sensitive and emotional dimensions of violence

Over the past few years, a second set of studies has been developing. These focus on the sensitive and emotional dimensions of violence. Their starting point is the principle that political violence is not implemented uniquely in the name of rational conflicts, moral representations or political arguments, and their focus is on the emotional content inherent in violent practices. The collective circulation of affects is then central to the analysis of the involvement in these social situations. Approaching the “sensitive world of violence” consists in returning to the immediate experience which each individual, as a living subject, has of a given emotional world, in particular in the chaotic and precarious situations which violence creates (Makaremi, 2016). The general issue is therefore of restoring the emotional experience in its collective dimension, taking into consideration the dynamics of the emotional interactions which unfold there, between conflicts, imitations and adjustments.

The consideration of the emotions central to the exercise of violence cannot be restricted to a naturalist reading of the mobilising emotion or decision-making factor. The social emotions are contained in discourse and are profoundly modified by the enunciations in which they are contained. The attribution of emotions, by the actors of this violence as by the various observers, are contained within emotional scripts, which are culturally variable, of which the narrative and axiological constructions should be studied (Latté, 2015). The valorisation of anger, for example, to which envy, vengeance or hatred have no access, shapes the identity of certain groups and constructs, not only legitimacy but, to some extent, filiation. The implicit attachment of this emotion to a quest for visibility and recognition (Sloterdijk, 2007) can play a role in the abolition of certain inhibitions.

This axis will therefore use monographs or theoretical considerations to question the occasions, forms and meanings assigned to the sensory and emotional commitment in the use of a domesticated violence and the way in which it is located in an itinerary of individuation and (trans)forms a collective.

Axis 3. Destructive ways of acting and sensorial experience

Firstly, this destruction takes place in the field of perception; the law enforcement agencies are confused by the “power of the rioters”, the streets are strewn with debris which provides the opportunity of immediately seeing the change in state and the temporary disruption that it engenders in space and function as well as in the material aspects of the town.

It is obviously not sufficient to proceed with a pure phenomenology of the gestures and the environments which they outline. It is also important to link the power to attract of these gestures with the social contexts which are conducive to them but also with the imaginary worlds of destruction which are internal to us. While there has long been a tradition of passion for ruins and for dystopic imaginary worlds, the ever more acute awareness of the destructive consequences of human activity on the environment now shapes various thoughts of collapse (Citton and Rasmi, 2020); affecting cultures in different ways against a background of destructive action  This is comparable to the artistic performance entitled, Break it before it is broken (Kato, 2015) in which people affected by the tsunami which struck Japan in 2011 overturn the structure of a house about to be knocked down in order to destroy it definitively. Destructive action can be interpreted as the desire to become an actor, and no longer a passive and impotent observer of collapse. To destroy would be to depart from the grammar of nihilism to register in a sequence of subjective assumption and transformation.

This axis calls for studies more specifically focussed on the acts of destruction associated with these forms of violence, questioning in particular this action per se and its encounter with a form of materiality of the world, the role which the act of destruction plays in the subjectivisation of  its perpetrator, as well as the manner in which the meaning of this ‘negative’ gesture is constructed and how it is inserted in an itinerary, which may, or may not be, associated with political ideas or imaginary worlds of destruction.

Axis 4. Representations of violence

The representation of this violence in the public sphere has also to be grasped per se. Its intensity and the spectacular dimension (fire, plumes of black smoke, people in groups wearing masks), etc.) is satisfying for those involved and also makes them choice targets for visual monstration. Press coverage is an important facet of the phenomenon in that it plays a determining role in constructing public opinion for or against the issue. Visual representation may constitute an object for analysis in its own right as the numerous choices which operate, (shots, editing) in depicting these events, transmit them to give the impression that the spectator is on the spot. Its production therefore deserves close attention. But the newspaper reports which construct these events also form an image which can be analysed.

Artistic fields can also be taken into consideration when we examine the representations of the events. The exhibition ‘Soulèvements’ (Didi-Huberman, Jeu de Paume, 2016) or “Le Peuple des Images” (Hors-Pistes festival, Centre Pompidou, 2020) have also examined the portrayal of violence in popular movements. The success of the film, Joker with the general public and its quasi-instantaneous integration in the visual repertory of the masks in the 2019 movements leads to reflection on the charm exerted by these images of violence, on their cathartic value or, on the contrary, their influence in  motivating  decisions to act, the role they play in the shaping of the identity of groups and their circulation in various national contexts. They contribute to forming the sensitivity of the ‘spectators’ to the causes supported by these movements and to violence itself in various ways. They forge possible axiological reformulations.

Calendar

Proposals for articles (approximately 5,000 signs i.e. 2-3 pages, including bibliography and notes.) should be submitted by 26 October 2020 to the editorial secretariat: socio@msh-paris.fr. They should enable a clear grasp of both the research material on which the article is based, as well as the problematic and the author’s intellectual approach, the main theses and findings of the research carried out and the main concepts and references mobilised.

After acceptance of the proposal, the article, approximately 35,000 signs (including notes and bibliography) should reach the journal by 15 March 2021 at the latest. It will then be submitted to the reading panel of the journal and external reviewers.

A particular effort in writing and style is expected, enabling the issues dealt with in the article to be set in a perspective generating interest beyond the restricted circle of specialists.

The authors are invited to respect as far as possible the recommendations listed on the site of the journal at the address: : <https://journals.openedition.org/socio/547>.


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