It’s the academic conference season and I am (or have been) out and about talking about the Non-Stop Against Apartheid project quite a lot recently.
On Tuesday 26th June, we held a one-day workshop at the University of Leicester called (Re)thinking Protest Camps. The event was co-organised by me with my colleague from Geography, Jenny Pickerill, Fabian Frenzel from the School of Management at Leicester, Patrick McCurdy from the University of Ottawa and Anna Feigenbaum (soon to be at Rutgers). The event was structured around four short thematic introductions examining 1) the spatialities of protest camps, 2) the governance of protest camps, 3) affective aspects of camps, and 4) how protest camps are represented (and present themselves) in the media. In addition to looking at the proliferation of protest camps of various kinds over the last few years, the event took a longer historical view of protest encampments. Sasha Roseneil gave the keynote paper reflecting on her experiences at and her evolving analysis of life at the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp in the 1980s. Her talk was called “After the camp: what do we leave behind? Legacies, memories, transformation”. Interestingly, Sasha told me that, while she went to live at Greenham as a teenager, her sister regularly attended the Non-Stop Picket of the South African Embassy. Over recent months I have been thinking a lot about the similarities and differences between Greenham and the Non-Stop Picket (both generally, and in my own motivation for getting involved with the Picket). When I get a chance to write them up, I will post them here – certainly Sasha’s talk set me thinking about these connections all over again. A report of the seminar will be posted on the Protest Camps blog run by Anna, Fabian and Patrick in the near future.
Next Wednesday (4th July), Anna, Fabian and myself have also co-organised two sessions on the Spatialities of Protest Camps at the Royal Geographical Society Annual Conference in Edinburgh. If you’re attending the conference, the sessions are in room APT-LT2 from 15.20 – 17.00 and again from 17.20 – 19.00. We have ten papers scheduled examining protest camps from Tahrir Square to Occupy, from the Faslane Peace Camp to the Horizone camp that protested the G8 at Gleneagles in 2005. I will be speaking about practices of solidarity on the Non-Stop Picket.
Yesterday (28th June) I also spoke about the Non-Stop Picket in Liverpool at the Modern Activism conference organised by SOLON and the Centre for Contemporary British History. There I participated in a fascinating session organised by Rob Skinner (Bristol) about anti-apartheid activism. Rob spoke about the role of radical scholarship and particularly the Penguin Africa Library in providing the intellectual justification for early anti-apartheid activism in Britain in the 1960s. Simon Stevens from Columbia gave a fascinating paper about the changing justifications provided for the sports boycott of apartheid South Africa. Finally, Christabel Gurney who edited the Anti-Apartheid Movement’s paper Anti-Apartheid News during the 1970s, was a member of the AAM’s National Committee for many years, and is involved with the AAM Archive Committee, gave an overview of the AAM’s political strategy. Again, lots of ideas were thrown up by this session, and I’ll share them here one the dust has settled on the conference season.
Interestingly, I found out in Liverpool that both Christabel and Rob played a part in the events I covered here last week – Christabel was one of the AAM activists who attempted to block De Klerk’s car during his visit to London in June 1989, and Rob was one of the stage crew on The Phantom of the Opera at the time who refused to perform for De Klerk.