Anna Feigenbaum, Bournemouth University

29 January 2019

Over the past 100 years since its wartime development, tear gas has been deployed to disperse demonstrations, quell rioters, scatter protesters, and breakup political assemblies. Looking at examples from protests over these past 100 years, with a particular focus on contemporary social justice movements, this presentation explores a range of practices for resisting police use of force. As the riot control industry continually adapts to protest cultures and tactics, civilians find new modes of resilience and resistance, revealing the tensions between ‘cruel design’ and ‘disobedient design.’  From people collecting canisters and circulating their branded images to engage in a politics of accountability, to the making of DiY mask and eye-wash remedy infographics that travel internationally, creativity and a critical literacy of police power lies at the heart of activist resistance.


Engaging with the history of media, Anna’s work investigates how technological practices shape political action. My work is concerned with how communication is mediated at sites of struggle–be it by bar charts or barbed wire fences. She is currently writing the Data Storytelling Workbook for Routledge. This interdisciplinary project explores how practitioners and researchers are using data to tell factual stories for social good in emotive and effective ways. A visualisation project in itself, the workbook is being designed in collaboration with Minute Works creative studio.

Her first monograph Tear Gas: From the Battlefields of WWI to the Streets of Today came out with Verso in 2017. This research was funded by a Wellcome Trust Medical Humanities grant. It uses digital humanities and data storytelling methods to track the movement of tear gas from the trenches of WW1 to the streets of today, asking ‘How did it become normal to police communication with poison’?

She is also co-author of the book Protest Camps (Zed 2013), which explores the media, governance and social practices of over 50 protest camps across the span of 50 years. From the Aboriginal Tent Embassy to Occupy Wall Street, Protest Camps tells transnational stories, looking at how strategies of resistance travel and adapt as they move around the world. Our edited collection, Protest Camps in an International Context is out with Policy Press in Spring 2017.

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