Workshop: Times and Emotions

Workshop with Professor Donatella Della Porta, Department of Political and Social Sciences, European University Institute, Firenze.

"Time and Emotions: How Social Movements May Transform Relations."

Protest campaigns linked to episodes of democratization are often described as sudden: surprise, excitement, and innovation are terms often used to describe eventful democratization, as times are perceived as exceptional. I suggest that one major transformation during those events is what we can conceptualize as time intensification. We can find some relevant reflections on this topic in different branches of the social sciences that have addressed critical junctures at the macro level, eventful protest at the meso level, and signaling mechanisms at the micro level.

In this paper, looking at the ways in which time has been addressed from these three perspectives, I will discuss the impact of relational processes of time intensification and then time normalization. Bridging the three levels, I suggest that changes are produced at the meso level, as eventful protest interrupts routines. Acting collectively, social movements can be seen as producing critical junctures at the macro level, where structures become more liquid. The implication at the micro level is that actors look for signals of others’ thoughts and behaviors that might guide their choices.

Here I present and discuss theoretical arguments at each of these levels. I do so through the analysis of activists’ perception of time, by means of in-depth interviews carried out with activists of mobilization for democracy in the two Central Eastern European countries that I considered as cases of eventful democratization: Czechoslovakia and the German Democratic Republic (GDR). In the final part, I shall introduce a cross-area and cross-time comparison, looking at similar processes in two (more troubled) episodes of eventful democratization: Egypt and Tunisia in 2011.