Book chapter: Think globally, act locally?

Together with my good friend and colleague Vittorio Sergi, we wrote an article comparing the characteristics of the Tunisian Revolution with the Greek anti-austerity movements.

It was published in: Flesher Fominaya, Cristina and Laurence Cox (eds.), Understanding European Movements: New Social Movements, Global Justice Struggles, Anti-Austerity Protest. London: Routledge (2013)


TITLE: Think globally, act locally? Symbolic memory and global repertoires in the Tunisian uprising and the Greek anti-austerity mobilizations

ABSTRACT: The article we are hereby presenting is a comparative research on two movements that developed in the Mediterranean area during a common time frame, the winter and spring of 2010-2011. In Tunisia, the suicide of a street vendor sparked a popular revolt, which ended up overthrowing a strong political regime and inspiring a series of rebellions, insurrections and mobilizations in both sides of the Mediterranean, as well as in the Middle East. In Greece, the local version of the Indignados managed to mobilize more than 20% of the country’s population against the harsh austerity measures imposed by the Greek government and its creditors, and spearheaded the anti-austerity protests for several months.
An assumption commonly made regarding the movements that constitute the Mediterranean Spring, is that their key common element is their dependence on social networking tools  for member recruitment, mobilizing the population and diffusing their discourse to wider audiences. They are supposedly part of a worldwide “facebook revolution”, which provides movements with innovative means, yet imposing on them new limits and constraints. Others have claimed the exact opposite: that the differences in the political, economical and social environment between the North and the South shore of the Mediterranean are so extensive, that there’s no point in searching for movements’ similarities in a cross-national level. Should there be any, they are attributed to a, sort of metaphysical, “domino effect” of collective action.
Our empirical data challenges both these assumptions. We argue that, despite the obvious contextual differentiations, the Tunisian and Greek cases do present similarities worth investigating. Yet, the most important amongst them are not to be traced in the common digital networking platforms, but in the rationale behind their use and the outcomes it produced. In both countries, movement members utilized notions and mnemonic constructions bearing strong symbolic connotations, in order to frame their grievances and claims. They re-appropriated strategic places closely associated to each country’s movement past. Their discourse addressed local issues but was also an attempt to challenge the political and economic hegemony of neo-liberalism, both at the regional and the global level.  This interesting intertwinement of the “global” and the “local” is perhaps the most important trait of the movements under scrutiny. This new generation of activists has inherited the alter-globalization movements’ well-known slogan “Think globally, act locally”; and is in the process of elaborating and implementing it.
The article is based on extensive fieldwork conducted during the months when the two mobilizations developed. The empirical data used has been retrieved from various sources, which include field notes from participant observation in Tunisia and Athens, Greece, interviews with key members and leaders of the movements under scrutiny, a wide variety of documents published in electronic and printed media, photographic material, as well as a video documentary shot by one of the authors in Tunisia.

You may download an extended version of the article from here.