Toppling statues, affective publics and the lessons of the Black Lives Matter movement

Dave Beech, Mel Jordan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
98 Downloads (Pure)


In this opening article, we explore how the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement challenges the traditional norms and conduct of the bourgeois public sphere. Ahmed argues how the White male body is abstracted in order to achieve a universal status (Ahmed) and how his ‘invisibility’ is his power; the socially constructed
‘invisibility’ of whiteness forces those people considered to be of colour to be ‘marked and highly visible’ (Purwar). We assert that this abstracting of whiteness, along with the dominance of rational debate leads to the patriarchal practices of the bourgeois public sphere. Utilizing Papacharissi’s concept of ‘Affective
Publics’, we examine the extent to which the online and offline activities of the BLM movement– including the toppling of statues – charge social media with the capacity to act as a fully fledged public sphere. We conclude that the BLM movement exemplifies a mode of public participation that outstrips conventional
thinking on the bourgeois public sphere and therefore can be taken as model for radically rethinking what a public sphere ought to be.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-15
Number of pages13
JournalArt & the Public Sphere
Issue number1
Early online date1 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

© Beech, D & Jordan, M 2021. The definitive, peer reviewed and edited version of this article is published in Art & the Public Sphere, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 3-15.

Copyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.


  • Black Lives Matter movement
  • affective publics
  • public sphere theory
  • social media
  • toppling statues

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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