Skip to main content

We are heartbroken and furious! (#2) Violence and the (anti-)globalisation movement(s)

Sian Sullivan
CSGR Working Paper No. 133/04
May 2004




This is a much reworked and reoriented version of an earlier CSGR Working Paper (Sullivan 2004a). A somewhat shorter version is forthcoming as Chapter 10 in Maiguascha, B. and Eschle, C. (December 2004) Critical Theories, World Politics and ‘the Anti-Globalisation Movement’, London: Routledge. The piece began as an exploratory comment on militant discourse and practice within the ‘(anti-)globalisation movement(s)’. It emerged from my own process of sense-making regarding the experience of violently irruptive situations, as well as from my perceptions of the contextual causes of violence in these situations. My particular fascination has been the role(s) of affect – and particularly of the felt experiences of depression and anger – in drawing people to the decision to literally place their bodies and psyches in the path of violent police repression in protest events. In this version I open with data derived from ‘observant participation’ in a number of events to emphasise my embeddedness within activist communities and practice, and to clearly situate the bearing that my own subjective experience has on my interpretation of protest events and of ‘anti-capitalist’ praxis. In interpreting and analyzing emerging activist desires to assert agency through activism, I highlight two related conceptual arenas. 1. A thinking through of the biopolitical necessities and manifestations effected by Empire – the constrained locating of sovereignty in the global – which construct the body and psyche as the only viable and meaningful locales of resistance (cf. Hardt and Negri 2000 after Foucault e.g. 1998 (1976)). And 2., a consideration of the parallels between a growing global incidence of depressed and disengaged individual subjectivities and Giorgio Agamben’s discourse on ‘bare life’ (e.g. 1994, 1998), i.e. human life stripped of citizenship as in refugees, asylum seekers, detainees etc.; and a concomitant understanding of affective depression as a locale from where is possible for ‘new’ dissenting subjectivities to emerge. My intention remains to problematise the dynamic relationships existing between a microcosm of individual circumstances that effect a range of violent practices from self-harm to militant activism, and the macrocosm of structural societal violence within which these are located. In doing so, I offer some reflections regarding what really constitutes radical political praxis in a context of late capitalist modernity, emphasising the continual effort to subvert modernity’s assumed categories of the real, and the need for reflexivity in considering whether or not activist praxis simply mirrors, and thereby maintains, the violent biopower of Empire.




violence/violation, militancy, militarisation (of police), (anti-)globalisation movements, anti-capitalism, anarchism, depression, anger, bio-politics, ‘bare life’

Address for correspondence:

Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation (CSGR)
University of Warwick
Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK
Phone: 44 (0)24 7657 4420 Fax: 44 (0)24 7656 2548

 Download the Full DocumentPDF icon