Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

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The Role of the Body in Pandemic Geographies of Encounter: Anti-Restriction Protesters Between Collective Action and Political Violence

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Abstract:  This article looks at public anti-restriction protests by framing public space as a vital component of urban life. It argues that the body is rarely introduced as a scale of spatial analysis and usually plays a more prominent role in the subfields of social movement or public space studies, which often tend to focus on the transformative and emancipatory side of urban encounters. By integrating a corporeal perspective, the article aims at understanding how the body transforms political passions into individual agency and collective action. Focusing on the Covid-19-crisis-related protests, particularly the anti-restriction protests, the study examines from different angles how a socially heterogeneous group consisting of both radicals and sceptics joined together, in anger, in an atypical coalition concerning state interventions in their very personal spaces. Based on a literature review of secondary sources on anti-restriction protests and an empirical analysis of media coverage of a key event in Vienna, the study identifies a gap in the theorisation of ambivalent geographies of encounter whose impacts range between collective action and political violence. To frame our key hypothesis, considering the body as a scale in spatial analysis is needed for future socio-spatial research to grasp new and pressing urban phenomena of social change. By bridging empirical observation, methodological considerations and conceptual reflection, this article contributes to an understanding of social change through less romanticised modes of analysis of geographies of encounter with a particular take on embodied space.

Keywords:  anti-restriction protests; Covid-19; embodied space; libertarian authoritarianism; political violence; public space



© Sabine Knierbein, Richard Pfeifer. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.