Accepted paper:

Local discontent and the meaningfulness of resistance: challenging homogeneity through complexity


Dimitrios Theodossopoulos (University of Kent)

Paper short abstract:

This plenary paper criticizes approaches to the study of resistance that homogenize the resisting imagined-and-undifferentiated subject. It puts forward an alternative approach that focuses on the meaningfulness and complexity of local discontent, drawing examples from protest in Greece and Panama.

Paper long abstract:

Conventional images of local resistance involve protesters on the road, placards, slogans, road blockages, attacks by the police, tear gas, and wounded bystanders. Journalistic reportage captures the structural opposition of such confrontations, the tension, the drama, the causality of the protest as this is articulated on the surface. Many of us feel that we understand the protesters - the homogenized, imagined protester: the protester as a familiar and undifferentiated image; a photograph on facebook, a virtual potential friend. This illusion of familiarity sets obstacles to the anthropological study of resistance: little is known about local meaningfulness, and less about the discontent that fuels and engenders resistance. This plenary paper attempts to move beyond the homogenized perception of resistance or its articulated justification, and addresses the complexity and meaningfulness of local discontent - indignation, infuriation, an embodied sense of injustice - that inspires resistance. I argue that anthropology can contribute in revolutionizing the study of resistance by addressing its complexity, meaningfulness and local specificity; and I offer timely examples of resistance and discontent - from Greece and Panama - that prioritize meaning over structure.

panel Plenary B
Local resistance, disquiet, and anthropological uncertainty