The Global Imagination of Protest

Graffiti last spring on a wall near Tunisia’s interior ministry reading “Thank you, Facebook” was not just praise for a social-media company that had facilitated an uprising. It also celebrated the sense of shared experience that defined the Tunisian revolution – and the many other protests and revolutions that erupted in 2011.

NEW YORK – When graffiti appeared last spring on a wall near Tunisia’s interior ministry reading “Thank you, Facebook,” it was not just praise for a social-media company that had facilitated the country’s uprising. It was also a celebration of the sense of shared experience that defined the Tunisian revolution – and the many other historic protests and revolutions that erupted in 2011.

As we discovered collecting essays for our new book From Cairo to Wall Street: Voices from the Global Spring, one of the defining characteristics of the new age of protest is the dovetailing of the desire and the ability to connect – across neighborhoods, cities, countries, and even continents. In every contributor’s country, a new awareness of shared destinies and of a global community permeated protest movements. Social-media technology was one tool that advanced it; but so was a reconceptualization of the meaning of public space, and the view that a plurality of ideas is superior to dogma – that the act of collaboration is as important as the outcome.

So these were not just political revolutions. They were also revolutions of ideas – the globalization of protest as a strategy.

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