'Wichtig ist der Widerstand': Rituals of Taming and Tolerance in Movement Responses to the Violence Question
PREVENT AND TAME: PROTEST UNDER (SELF-) CONTROL, pp. 73-98, Florian Heßdörfer, Andrea Pabst, and Peter Ullrich, eds., Berlin: Dietz
28 Pages Posted: 8 May 2010 Last revised: 30 Nov 2010
Date Written: November 29, 2010
In comparison to the amount of attention it gets in the mainstream media and in activist discussions, the question of how movements resolve “the violence question” has been virtually ignored by movement scholars. Within social movements, whenever protesters participate in “violent” actions, public and private recriminations fly about who “started it,” whether or not it was justified, and whether and how disapproving parties should present their views in the press. Before, during, and after the action, moderate and nonviolent civil disobedience groups engage in a variety of “taming” rituals designed to discourage, de-escalate, and/or punish the use of violence as they define it. Some movements, however, have begun resolving this internal dilemma in a new way: rather than the one side trying to “tame” the other, rituals and frames of tolerance and solidarity have been constructed that allow them to work together more effectively, despite their differences. By examining interactions between the German Autonomen and the German nonviolence movement we asks in this paper: Under what conditions are militant and nonviolent factions able to construct common frames and rituals about violence that encourage tolerance and even celebrate different tactical approaches, and when do they interact with mutual animosity, noncooperation, and obstructionism? To address this question, we examine two instances of interaction between the Autonomen and the nonviolence movement in Germany - one in which they constructed rituals and frames of tolerance and worked together fairly successfully (in the actions against a nuclear waste transport in the “Free Republic of Wendland” in March of 2001) and one where they were unable to resolve their differences and engaged in taming rituals, including fierce public denunciations and in-fighting (in the riots on June 2, 2008 during the anti-G8 protests in Rostock). Drawing on field notes from participant observation and extensive media discourse analysis we identify several factors that influence the activists’ choice between taming and tolerance. We can show that face-to-face interaction of different movement factions in the run-up of protests only leads to tolerance under specific conditions, of which the experience of previous and the expectation of further collaboration are most important, whereas the range of actors and their breadth of the represented political spectrum only play a secondary role.
Keywords: Social Movements, Violence, Militancy, Protest, Discourse Analysis
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