Resistance, emphasizing grass-root response to coercive systemic power, was introduced to anthropology by scholars seeking to theorize colonial rural contexts. Analysis of contemporary global protest, which is of course predominantly urban, could benefit from this theoretical perspective. But two related issues emerge. One: is the coherence implicitly attributed by ‘resistance’ to power and the institutions that embody it as valid for the dynamic choreography of protest and repression in contemporary ‘Rebel Cities’ as it may have been for other contexts? Two: Given the diversity of causes and affiliations that characterize contemporary protests, and the empowerment this diversity facilitates, how can ethnographic studies of the local manifestations of the struggle help? Could our inherent attention to nuanced particularities undermine the strategic essentialism that seems to be required for this struggle to bear fruit?
Dan Rabinowitz (Tel Aviv University and CEU