Protestival: Global Days of Action and Carnivalized Politics in the Present

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Investigating the significance of carnivalized methods of protest in the present, this article explores the characteristics and recent history of the protestival, the carnival of protest which has flourished with the advent of the alter-globalization movement. Heir to the carnivalized politics of the 1960s, and drawing from radical avant-garde movements and guerrilla theatre, the ‘protestival’ inherits much from the kinds of ‘symbolic challenges’ thought posed by post-1960ssocial movements. Immediately downstream from Reclaim the Streets, demonstrating a resurgence of autonomism, anarchism and direct democracy, and developing within the context of global opposition to neo-liberalism and the War on Terror, the Global Day of Action would become the template for popular direct action: in particular those events nominated ‘Carnivals Against Capitalism’ or ‘For Global Justice’. While new social movement theorists have recognized the significance of movement cultural politics, new approaches are needed to understand the festal and carnivalesque character of the contemporary activism. Recently scholars have indicated that summit sieges, autonomous convergences and other recent reflexive events constitute transnational ‘carnivalesque rituals’, politico-religious ‘pilgrimage’ destinations, or spatial reconfigurations critical to the renewed opposition to capitalism. The ‘protestival’ provides an ambiguously nuanced heuristic sufficient to comprehend those performative moments simultaneously transgressive and progressive, against and for, by which the marginal may take their grievances to the physical and symbolic centres (‘summits’) of neo-liberalism, where alternative logics and spectacles are performed. Unpacking its expositional and revelatory logic, the article uncovers the roots of the ‘protestival’, undertaking an exploration of intentional carnival, festal hacktivism, direct theatre, tactical frivolity and (un)masking to reveal a significant action template in the present.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-190
Number of pages24
JournalSocial Movement Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2008
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Protestival: Global Days of Action and Carnivalized Politics in the Present'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this