Are protests effective? This straightforward question interests both scholars and lay observers of protest. Whereas scholars most frequently answer the question with a nuanced ‘it depends’ and start narrating about contingencies; citizens and especially journalists most often simply want to hear impressive stories. Not the historical cases everybody is familiar with, but preferably more recent ones. Tales of contemporary struggles that truly show the potency of protest.
In the last few months, several examples of protest and success covered in international media caught my attention. These protests were noteworthy because, contrary to what much scholarly work suggests—that is, that protest is especially effective in the long run—these actions succeeded extremely quickly, in a matter of days. Their success seemed to be as sudden as their emergence. Continue reading
I have known this song for a long time. I was singing it when I didn’t even know that singing would be my profession. Long, long before. For me, it was a song of hope, hope for something big, for a victory—I treated it like the song which accompanied the army divisions leaving Portugal in 1974. . . . This song is one of the best songs ever written. I have always sung it, I have always known it, but I could not imagine that somebody would ever ask me to sing and record it.
When the prominent Polish rocker Kazik evoked the mythical transcendence of the “Ballad of Janek Wiśniewski” (“Ballada Janka Wiśniewskiego”) in a 2011 interview, he accorded it a kind of universal significance typically located in anthems prominent in social movements on the “right side” of history. Eternal and great, the song appears mysteriously ephemeral in Kazik’s tale of its personal meaning. In response to Kazik, I want to ground this anthem in history. Continue reading