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Protest Camps

Feigenbaum, Anna, Frenzel, Fabian and McCurdy, Patrick

Zed Books, London (2013)
ISBN: 9781780323558 (pb)

Reviewed by Sara Deffendoll, Capella University

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Cover of Protest Camps Anna Feigenbaum, Fabian Frenzel, and Patrick McCurdy, in Protest Camps, offer a glimpse into the inner workings of protest camps throughout the world with a special emphasis on camps in the United States, the United Kingdom, and mainland Europe. The book begins with a lengthy introduction and a review of the origins of the word “camp”. Starting with the Roman military, camp has been used to describe military accommodations and later military advancement. Camp gained a political meaning during colonial American usage where it was often used to describe the transportation of prisoners from England to the colonies. During the early to mid-1900s, camp was used to describe temporary housing arrangements for veterans and victims of economic hardship. Here, the authors use the word to describe a social movement strategy that involves a specific location where acts of protest and acts of daily living are accomplished in unison.

The authors acknowledge from the start that further research on protest camps is necessary. For instance, protest camps can be utilized by a wide range of political parties such as right-leaning, conservative, or fascist groups but Protest Camps only focuses on emancipatory politics. The introduction concludes with a review of several protest camps including Resurrection City (USA) in 1968, Greenham Common (UK) in 1981, HoriZone in 2005, Tahrir Square (Egypt) in 2011, and Occupy LSX (UK) in 2011. These reviews present the various forms of protest camps utilizing first-person accounts that provide a depth and richness to the information that is not possible when reading media or historical accounts of these events. Numerous first-hand accounts attribute to a sociological strength that is necessary when writing about a person-centric topic such as protesting in general and protest camps specifically.

Media and communication, protest action, governance, and re-creation - the four key infrastructures of protest camps - are covered extensively in the main chapters of the book. Media and communication describes how information is shared with the mainstream media and social media from the protest camp. The most common media and communication strategies utilized by protest camps include open access, limited access, no access, media specific restrictions, a specific media tent, and alternative media strategies. Protest actions include the specific actions taken by the protest camp as well as future actions planned during the current protest. The protest camp is also a political action in and of itself. Creativity is the main characteristic of protest actions as new strategies are developed and unique challenges are explored.

The most common types of protest camp governance are partial organization, organic horizontality, and horizontal decision-making. These strategies have emerged as the majority of protest camps have rejected the rigid hierarchical structures of traditional organizations. Many protest camps strive to form a consensus among every protester before actions occur or allow protesters to opt-out of actions if they feel uncomfortable. Re-creation is a relatively new concept of protest camps that has only recently been recognized as necessary and desirable among protesters. Re-creational infrastructures may include basic needs such as tents, mobile kitchens or toilets; protest specific needs such as border markers and defenses; or specialty needs such as childcare, disabled facilities, or many others. These re-creational facilities create a micro-community within the protest camp aimed at challenging the status quo.

The main shortcoming of Protest Camps is the repetitiveness of the information presented. Each chapter is presented as a stand-alone essay resulting in the same information being reviewed several times. A second challenge is the use of references and phrasing that would be unfamiliar to a protester or protest camp novice which requires readers to have at least a basic understanding of protests. Overall, individuals interested in participating in a protest camp or learning more about the historical significance of protest camps will find Protest Camps informative and insightful.