Research

My research uses public sphere theory as a springboard into an exploration of how protest movements bridge the gap between their own familiar but marginal spheres and the inevitably more hostile ‘mainstream’.

In my book Articulating Dissent; Protest and the Public Sphere, I focus on the notion of subaltern counter-publics and the way in which they function as both spaces for withdrawal and regroupment, and as training grounds for agitational activities directed towards wider publics. I also utilises Deleuze and Guattari’s work on rhizomatic and arborescent systems to examine the interface between the chaotic ‘smooth’ spaces of autonomous/anarchist activists and the regimented ‘striated’ space of professional journalists. Thus I aim to develop a more flexible and nuanced account of the ways in which subaltern and official public spheres interconnect and, in doing so, contribute to emerging rhizomatic models of the alternative media.

I am currently investigating the impact of new technologies on the dynamics of inter-generational memory. This project asks whether, in the absence of organisational continuity, the internet can maintain memory across time.  I will do so by conducting in-depth interviews about the transfer of knowledge, tactics, values and beliefs between three different generations of activists: those demonstrating against the poll tax in the early 1990s, who operated in a pre-digital era; those demonstrating against the rise of neo-liberalism in the late 1990s/early 2000s, who were internet pioneers; and those demonstrating against the current austerity measures in a media environment increasingly shaped by more mainstream networked communication platforms. This research will contribute to debates about the transfer of knowledge from the past, through the present and into the future.

I am also exploring the changing ways in which the police frame contemporary demonstrations. I examines the way in which the police’s ability to categorise protesters as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is being undermined by a number of interrelated structural, cultural and technological changes. This project reviews the media coverage surrounding the policing of protest and identifies the themes and frames that characterize representations of civil unrest. I will then take the results of this analysis and discuss them in interviews with groups of protesters, police and journalists in order to foster a better understanding of the complex dynamics that underpin the role of protest within mature western democracies.

My most recent project brings together academics from four universities and is being conducted in collaboration with the Brazen Bunch and Young Roots. It is an interdisciplinary project which looks at the development of subaltern heritage on London’s South Bank. It examines the ways in which stakeholders ascribe different values to historic environments and investigates the communicative divide between those whose everyday practices constitute city spaces and those charged with planning urban futures. This project has been awarded funding by the AHRC.

To find out more about my work visit

https://sussex.academia.edu/PollyannaRuiz