CFP – Social Unrest

There exists a disparate understanding of what “social unrest” means, between the communities and groups that exercise dissent, and the institutional apparatuses that organize societies. For the former, it represents a catalyzer of will to transform conditions of disparity, violence and oppression that trigger change, while for the latter it is a matter of risk assessment (a management approach) as well as a threat to the normal functioning of societies. This dissonance is palpable in the way that governments respond to demonstrations, as it has been seen recently in the case of the movement against police racism and brutality in the United States, where dissent has been met with disproportionate force and repression.

The different demonstrations around the world (India, Hong Kong, Colombia, Europe, etc) that took place at the end of 2019 and which were rekindled by the massive international response to the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in Minneapolis and Louisville, among others, compel us to think about the life, the role and the dynamics of social unrest in contemporary democracies. Building from an understanding of the historical processes that have lead to situations of social injustice, we look for compelling and creative responses to these critical situations that define our present around the world. Acting as social laboratories for experimental futures, there movements are not just making contingent demands but asking for structural changes in until now repressive institutions. This dispatch series hopes to publish engaged and urgent analysis of the challenges, contradictions, and knowledges to be learned from these movements. 

We invite you to submit analysis, reports, reflections and reactions to ongoing situations of social and political unrest, organized and spontaneous movements, artistic responses to cases of social unrest worldwide. Dispatches can be 1500+ word interventions, visual essays, or a combination of both.

Possible topics include:

  • Visual analysis of the discourse/ecologies/dynamics of unrest during demonstrations and other forms of public dissent.
  • Technologies of surveillance and control/technologies of defense and accountability in response to repression.
  • Telepresence, broadcasting of social unrest or of situations causing/leading to social unrest.
  • On-ground reports, vignettes, or responses to context-specific cases around the world.
  • Analysis of mainstream and alternative media coverage of protesting crowds, or bottom-up visual strategies and languages that respond to or report on social unrest.
  • Telepresence, distribution, digitalization, remoteness and virtualization of protest and activism.
  • Continuities and resonances across offline-online places and spaces of protest in cities built of concrete and parks, of data and algorithms.
  • Visual Imaginaries of imperfect presents and possible futures manifesting in protest art.
  • Genealogies of the visuality of social unrest.
  • Challenges of visual communication in organizing protests amidst the Covid-19 biomedical crisis. 
  • Photo journalism, visual storytelling and artistic projects that engage with the aforementioned topics.

Dispatches is a rolling submission initiative, but we especially encourage contributions about current and pressing situations of social unrest locally and globally. Please send your essays to the Dispatches Series editors David Ayala-Alfonso(davidayala@gmail.com) and/or Rahul Mukherjee (mrahul@sas.upenn.edu).