Marches have long been a key tool of protest used by a wide range of movements on both Left and Right. This lecture will look at the symbolic and strategic functions of marches in modern and contemporary collective action, their representations and iconic status in the public imagination. It will ask why, in the era of social media and ‘clicktivism’, or activism confined to online participation from the security and comfort of your home, protest actors still resort en masse to this form of action. The lecture will also consider continuities and changes. Marches, particularly those staged by political actors such as the trade unions, used to be a very disciplined and militaresque affair. However, since the late 1960s they have increasingly turned into colourful, noisy and messy performances. Just to mention a few examples, students, feminists, environmentalists, the global justice movement, post-2008 anti-austerity protesters, have made ample use of symbols and repertoires drawn on the Carnival tradition and pre-modern folk protest rituals. How does one explain this? Why, particularly after 2008, has collective action re-emerged in ways that are concurrently new and, also, so old?
Ilaria Favretto is Professor of Contemporary European History within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Kingston University. Her research focuses on protest and social movements in modern and contemporary Europe. Recent publications include: Protest, Popular Culture and Tradition in Modern and Contemporary Western European History (co-edited with Xabier Itcaina, Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements, 2017) and ‘Rough Music and Factory Protest in post-1945 Italy’, Past and Present, vol 228, no.1, August 2015. She has recently been awarded a Leverhulme Fellowship and, from January 2018 she will be on research leave to complete a cultural history of industrial conflict in twentieth century Italy.