From crowds to transnational massing: presence and representation

Gupta, Suman (2009). From crowds to transnational massing: presence and representation. Storia della Storiografia, 55 pp. 128–143.



This chapter examines the ideological underpinnings of conceptualisations of the crowd as a dynamic and material presence. Beginning with the early sociological accounts of crowds by Gustave le Bon and Georg Simmel, a line is traced through a number of intellectual formulations. In particular, discussion extends to notions of crowds as formations -- with shapes and densities -- which express an atavistic collectiveness, as an intensification of everyday life in the modern industrial city, as concretising the subversive and revolutionary political potential of the proletariat or the demos, as a category in group psychology which is contained and controlled by academic discourse. The continuing potency of conceptualising the crowd is considered in the context of the worldwide peace protests that were witnessed on 15 February 2003, shortly before the invasion of Iraq. It is argued that here the associations of crowding as a political gesture were used as part of a coordinated strategy, and it worked by drawing in global media to collectivise the many collective gestures as a trans-border and transnational political gesture. This is regarded in this chapter as a relatively recent development which takes conceptualising of crowds to a level where the designation 'crowd' seems meaningful and yet inadequate, and the phenomenon is consequently designated 'transnational massing as protest'.

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