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49 Protest Camps Anna Feigenbaum, Fabian Frenzel, and Patrick McCurdy The Occupy movement and urban occupations in Egypt, Greece, Spain, and Israel made headlines across the world in 2011, turning “protest camp” into a household phrase. Although it may have seemed that these camps erupted spontaneously, there is a long, transnational history of tents being pitched for political change. While contemporary movements certainly show new styles of protest camping, the tactic of building a public place for protest and dialogue is born from a long tradition of people working together to imagine other possible worlds. Distinct from other forms of social movement practices such as demonstrations or marches, the protest camp is made through acts of collaboration as both a place to live and to engage in political action. Protest camps may be defined as a place-­based social movement strategy that involves both acts of protest and acts of social reproduction needed to sustain daily life.1 The Promiscuous Infrastructures of Protest Camps In this chapter we look at the international history of protest camping, drawing attention to the ways that protest camps have been made across time, movements , and continents. In doing so, we briefly trace some of the genealogies of protest camping, both documenting and thereby creating a history of the protest camp as a distinct organizational and communicative form of politics. In tracing this transnational history, we look at what things travel between and across protest camps, and investigate how infrastructures, from spatial forms of governance to media tents, are made international. In the long lineage of protest camping that we examine here it becomes clear that transnational connections exist between camps across time and space.2 Working out of a collaboration with the Montreal-­ based Artivistic collective in the summer of 2011, we adopted and developed the term “promiscuous infrastructures” to try to capture the crooked and messy nature of how the ideas, bodies, objects, and structures that come to make up protest camps 50 Anna Feigenbaum, Fabian Frenzel, and Patrick McCurdy travel.3 While the word promiscuous carries much negative weight in social and cultural realms, in the biological sciences it is used to mean, as its etymology suggests, “to mix, forward.” The acts of transfer that make protest camps move are contingently local, but also translated and transposed across countries and contexts. Likewise, protest is always entangled in both human and nonhuman worlds. Protest camps make visible all of the architectures and objects required to sustain or socially reproduce the daily life of protest—­ from kitchens to showers to media centers. While these objects and environments are always a critical part of what makes social movements work the way they do, like things more broadly they fade into the backdrop, appearing occasionally as props, but rarely as central actors (or actants). The International Genealogies of Protest Camps For hundreds of years camping, as a form of protest, has brought politics home. The Diggers and Levellers of seventeenth-­ century England directly inspired protest camps set up in recent decades. Under the leadership of Gerrard Winstanley, they rejected the idea of private land and reclaimed common land to grow crops, protesting what they saw as unjustly high rates set by landlords. This rejection arose from the Diggers’ broader protest against what they saw as a society full of social and wealth inequalities. In their manifesto, The True Levellers Standard Advanced, they argued that land was no longer free to all men, but “bought and sold, and kept in the hands of a few” who delight in their comforts as if “rejoycing in the miserable povertie and straits of others.”4 These Diggers were a direct inspiration for the San Francisco Diggers formed in the 1960s who played a large role in setting up People’s Park and spawned the transnational group Food Not Bombs, often found serving food at protest camps. They also inspired the work of women at the Greenham Common Women ’s Peace Camp in the 1980s. In 1996 in London, the Pure Genius Campaign squatted unused land in central London to turn it into an agricultural commune , claiming allegiance to the Diggers’ ideals.5 Whereas seventeenth-­ century history can show us instances of reclaiming and repurposing public space, history from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries captures the rise of camping as a tactic to create collective and communal environments. Known as “camp meetings,” these took place both in the United Kingdom and on the American frontier and were most commonly...


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