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ESRC & SEDTC Politics Postgraduate Conference 2013

Abstract submission for Power Revisited: Crisis and Opportunities Simon Collister | New Political Communication Unit, Department of Politics and International Relations, Royal Holloway, University of London. Bio Simon Collister is a senior lecturer at University of the Arts, London. He is currently conducting PhD research at Royal Holloway, University of London's New Political Communication Unit on the mediation of power in networked communication environments. Before entering academia, Simon worked for a number of global communications consultancies, planning and implementing research-led campaigns for a range of public, voluntary, and private sector organisations. Keywords Mediated power, immanence, networks, assemblage theory, framing, #Demo2012 Abstract Re-Assembling Power: exploring the moment of crisis and opportunity within anti-austerity politics This paper will take as it starting point the tension identified in the conference‟s CFP as to whether recent political events such as the Arab Spring, Occupy and the diverse range of global anti-austerity movements should be understood as new forms of power or “an intensification of the old battlelines.” It will argue that such political events are an articulation of the trajectory plotted by contemporary accounts of power, but which the majority of political science scholarship has arguably overlooked in recent years. Such a reality, I contend, represents both a crisis as well as an opportunity for political scientists, media and communications and social movement/activism researchers.


Addressing this moment of crisis/opportunity from the perspective of mediated power the paper will identify limitations of the dominant theories in play and demonstrate how scholarly engagement with key themes, broadly arranged along a liberal-critical spectrum, have failed to maintain conceptual pace with broader sociological or philosophical theories of power. These contemporary theories encompass such concepts as new materialism, neo-realism and actor-network theory and have arguably broken dichotomous divides outlined above. The paper will demonstrate the particular relevance of such approaches to the emergence of the increasingly networked logics of contemporary, internet-enabled movements as well as the political spaces or spatialized practices readily embraced as a central tactic by such movements. Having identified and tentatively mapped this „crisis‟, I will then propose a theoretical and methodological response to this lacuna. This will be achieved by drawing on the Deleuzian and Delandian concept of assemblages and synthesising it with the communication theory of framing. This will enable me to articulate a theory of mediated power capable of bridging the gap between the “old battlelines” and contemporary articulations of power. In addition, the paper will aim to include evidence and examples of a practical application of the model through an analysis of the most recent UK student demonstrations (November 2012).