Urbane Ethiken

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Ambiguous Ethics of Normalisation in Russian Protest Rallies and Camps, 2011-2013

Alexander Bikbov, Moscow

Two forms of protest activities are examined: week-end rallies started in December 2012 and Occupy-shaped protest camps took place in Moscow and Petesburg in the summer 2012. Claims for urban space and demands on local issues did not and still do not have the dominant place in the Russian street protest. The mass participation is basically constructed around “global” ethical issues targeting the negatively perceived President, Parliament or the political regime in whole. Interviews taken directly in the protest actions reveal a larger variety of individual motivations and also a presence of urban marked intentions, such as district activism, projects of self-organized rubbish removal or creation of thematic city zones. Most part of such intentions were never realized in practice but serve an important indicator revealing expectations about the way the protesters would like to conduct their own lives. A keyword matching those manifested intentions is normalization. On the side of practices, other revealing indicators can be found. Self-organized maintaining and cleaning of the Occupy camps transfer applied ethics of the protest from permanent members to newcomers. Hostile treatment of homeless people in the same spaces represents another side of this ethics of neatness which separates the images of the protest into desirable and inappropriate ones in the view of a global anonimous observer. The presentation proposes an overview of those implicit dimensions of Russian street protest whose explicit urban expression remains weak.

Alexander Bikbov is vice-director of the Centre of Contemporary Philosophy and Social Sciences at Philosophy Department, Moskow State University. He is also an associate fellow of the Maurice Halbwachs research Centre in Paris, member of the editorial board of the interdisciplinary review Logos (Moskow) and scientific coordinator for Independent Research Initiative NII mitingov.