The Design of Protest: Choreographing Political Demonstrations in Public Space

Publication: University of Texas Press: Spring, 2018
Authors: Tali Hatuka

Public protests are a vital tool for asserting grievances and creating temporary, yet tangible, communities as the world becomes more democratic and urban in the twenty-first century. While the political and social aspects of protest have been extensively studied, little attention has been paid to the physical spaces in which protests happen. Yet place is a crucial aspect of protests, influencing the dynamics and engagement patterns among participants. In The Design of Protest, Tali Hatuka offers the first extensive discussion of the act of protest as a design, that is, a planned event in a space whose physical geometry and symbolic meaning are used and appropriated by its organizers, who aim to challenge socio-spatial distance between political institutions and the people they should serve.

Presenting case studies from around the world, including Tiananmen Square in Beijing; the National Mall in Washington, DC; Rabin Square in Tel Aviv; and the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Hatuka identifies three major dimensions of public protests: the process of planning the protest in a particular place; the choice of spatial choreography of the event, including the value and meaning of specific tactics; and the challenges of performing contemporary  protests in public space, in a fragmented, complex, and conflicted world.  Numerous photographs, detailed diagrams, and plans complement the case studies, which draw upon interviews with city officials, urban planners, and protesters themselves.