Two views of Unruliness, is it ‘Violence’ or ‘Critical Events’?


riots_1414603aDuring my first Block of Spring Term at IDS, I was scheduled two modules on Mondays. Mornings started with ‘Poverty, Conflict and Violence’ Module and then ‘Unruly Politics’ comes after noon. On one of those Mondays, the coincidence let me to get exposed two totally different articulations for the unruliness. One featured the unruliness as ‘Urban violence’ while the other looked at it as ‘critical events and rupture’ in Unruly Politics Module. What struck me the most that both used used same examples. One of those examples was ‘Tottenham riots’ in Aug 2011 when London witnessed a wave of riots following the fatal shooting by police of 29-year-old Mark Duggan.

Violence perspective focuses on the general violent nature of this unruly actions and questions different causalities and process in terms of inequality and state response of policing violence. Also terms like rioting, gang violence (extortion), looting, ransacking, stone pelting, bottle throwing, arson and policing violence were quietly used to describe unruliness which reflect kind or criminality-based articulation. In my opinion, it is a kind of mechanical understanding for this unruliness that omits looking at those events as politically meaningful. Rather than criminality or looking at direct limited causality, we need to question this kind of consciousness that the unruly actors developed. It is not violence as far it is a rapture in the relation between ‘how the world is’ and ‘how it appears’ to those people’ to grasp why it ceases to make sense (Akshay, 2012:166). This example highlights the need for reconsidering violence with unruly lens in order to constitute  understanding to different dimensions of citizen action beyond being in discursive frames of criminality and state aligned views about citizen action. More actors-aligned understanding is need to be pursued with much openness for new modalities for citizen action.


Riots in Tottenham after Mark Duggan shooting protest, [accessed 26th Apr. 2016]

Khanna, a. (2012) ‘Seeing citizen action through an unruly lens’ in Development, 55(2), pp.162-172.

* photo credit goes to The Sun, [accessed 26 Apr. 2016]

Egyptian Revolution and Prefigurative Dilemma

Prefigurative Tweet

The above tweet quotes ‘Alaa Abd El Fattah’, one of prominent activists in the Egyptian Revolution. It goes back to the time when Muslim Brotherhood was in power and many of oppositional actions were taking place in streets against their policies.  He says ‘because that there is no a catalog for understanding us, nonetheless we refuse this idea in principal. We don’t have a plan, an organization or a leadership. Tomorrow, we will invent solutions away from prisoning others. Tomorrow belongs to us’. Juxtaposing those words with ‘prefigurative politics’ can reveal how Alaa and other Egyptian revolution activists were pushing political ideals to be experimentally actualised in the ‘here and now’ through different modalities and solutions, rather than to be realised in a distant future with the same pitfalls they criticized in existing modalities of strategic politics.

I believe one of the biggest dilemmas of Egyptian revolution was the conflict between this kind of ‘here and now’ prefigurative view, on one side, and a strategic view of politics that separate between means and ends in political action and follow the conventional modalities toward brining the change. As participant in Egyptian revolution, I remember this conflict started to emerge during eighteen-day sit-in in Tahrir square when Muslim Brotherhood leaders went to negotiate with vice president at that time, Omar Suleiman. After five years, I can find this incident and others happened after resonate with Akshay’s (2012:166) argument that a given act cannot stay ‘unruly’ for long and ‘quickly [it got] absorbed by the realm of appearance, by the narratives that sustain ‘politics’ as defined by those in power’.

Thinking constructively about this dilemma, I find that we, as activists, did not manage to cultivate this kind of prefigurative views among wider public. Although ‘The republic of Tahrir’, as Van De Sande (2013) argued, has implied many prefigurative actions of brining the future that Egyptians want in the ‘here and now’, I can argue that those actions were tactical purposes rather than a quest for another prefigurative meaning of politics. I can not say at least for my self, when I was participating in those protests and demonstrations I was envisioning or calling for another politics rather than this liberal democracy. Therefore, I do believe it is crucial to communicate this prefigurative meanings widely and push questioning those conventional understanding of politics among wider public. Our problem in Egyptian revolution that we didn’t agree what kind of politics we want.

Khanna, a. (2012) ‘Seeing citizen action through an unruly lens’ in Development, 55(2), pp.162-172.

Van De Sande, M. (2013) ‘The prefigurative politics of Tahrir Square – an alternative perspective on the 2011 revolutions’, Res Republica, 19, pp.223‒229.

Releasing inside unruliness

rules made to be brokenCalling back the unruly experiences I have been through, brings me paradoxical feelings and questions. Internally, I was feeling a struggle. I don’t believe any more that the system, i.e. formal authorities, considers my voice. They never pay attention to any citizen voice as long as it did not turn to be unruly. The powerful thing of unruliness that it disrupts the power arrangements and reveals the silenced voices about injustice. Back to these paradoxical feelings, despite of this conviction of the inevitability of unruly action in nowadays politics, I found each time confusing inner voices keep asking me ‘is what I am doing allowed or possible?’ in terms of being lawful and abiding to rules. Which I should say, it was useful to be cautious about the consequences of my actions. But I feel this paradox, in middle of unruly action that ought to challenge rules and laws, I keep thinking of them.

To understand the source this paradox, we need refer back to all education and socialising processes we have been exposed to. We are not educated to question the laws and rules rather than respecting and abiding to them. We internalise them into our daily life in way that hinders any unruly possibility we can take. Bourdieu (1980)* has described this kind of embodied boundaries as ‘habitus’ that we acquire through the activities and experiences of everyday life and constitute our values, dispositions and expectations that constitute everyday life. That’s why releasing our unruliness needs much of ‘unlearning’ that can disconnect us from constructed habitus toward of internalised boundaries. We need to rethink all of this rules and laws and question them. They are not unbreakable if we don’t make sense of them. They are made to serve our agency not the opposite.

*Bourdieu, P. (1980). The Logic of Practice. Stanford, Stanford University Press.

** credit of the photo goes to collective creative  of the internet