Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Disciplining Disruption: Regulation and Surveillance of Public Spaces of Protest

The analyses presented in this dissertation are guided by two broad questions. First, how do material elements of the public sphere (i.e.; access to, use, and regulations of public space, physical barriers, proximities among protesters, audiences, and counterprotesters, and police presence/absence) enable or constrain protest? And second, in what ways are we to understand and/or account for the rhetorical effects of protest, including disruption, in such contexts? I address these questions by exploring the current shape of the public sphere though thick descriptions of the public spaces of protest I have encountered during my fieldwork with North Carolina Stop Torture Now. Drawing on the work of Michel Foucault, I argue that these regulations and surveillance practices discipline protest, particularly in its disruptive function. These extensive examples reveal how disciplinary power is locally dispersed, ubiquitous, and internalized by activists and supporters of the status quo. However, because relations of power and resistance exist in an indefinite and at times, contradictory, struggle, I argue that although protest is subject to disciplinary practices, protesters can and do challenge these technologies through creative disruption. These disruptions in localized spaces of protest can create a productive tension in the face of complacency and the taken-for-granted legitimacy of the status quo. I argue that creative disruption has the effects of stirring people to anger, inviting dispute, creating contentious spaces and/or creating dissatisfaction with the status quo. These spaces and the practices therein contribute to an understanding of the public sphere as material.