Photo Credit: Ben Nachum via Wikimedia
Demonstration in Rabin Square supporting IDF soldier Elor Azaria. The sign reads: 'If we don't protect our soldiers, who will protect us?' (file)

A new book by an Israeli researcher at Tel Aviv University explores the tactics behind “taking to the streets” and the importance of public space in that phenomenon.

Public protests are a vital, common tool for expressing grievances and creating communities. The political and social aspects of protests have been extensively studied, but little attention has been paid to the physical spaces in which they take place.

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The Design of Protest, a new book by Tel Aviv University’s Professor Tali Hatuka addresses the crucial role of place in influencing both the dialogue between institutions and participants and the dynamics among the participants themselves.

In her study, published in August by University of Texas Press, Hatuka presents the first extensive discussion of protest-as-design — a planned event in a space whose physical geometry and symbolic meaning are used and appropriated by its organizers to different ends.

“The book is about the ways in which protesters envision their actions and plan them in a specific space,” Hatuka says.

As head of the Laboratory of Contemporary Urban Design at TAU’s Department of Geography and Human Environment, she notes that “protesters often develop spatial strategies to both help achieve their goals and to overcome any potential organizational, legal and/or social challenges.

“They create displays that allow them to express their beliefs and ideas. It’s important to understand what kind of dynamic they create and what kind of opportunities they open. The book investigates the details of specific events as aesthetic manifestations as well as political tactics,” she adds.

Hatuka explores “spatial choreography,” or protest tactics, from case studies around the world: Tiananmen Square in Beijing; the National Mall in Washington, DC; Rabin Square in Tel Aviv; the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires; and more recent protests in the United States, the Middle East and South America.

The professor says she is continuing to research protests relating to the refugee crises in Israel and Germany.

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