Direct Action and Disobedience: Conceptual and Performative clarifications. The case of the Stanstead 15

In this paper, I discuss some of the problems raised by the performance of antagonistic direct action in the recent trial of the Stansted 15. What happens to direct action where it is publicly conducted qua direct action, where activists are arrested, and where they are prosecuted? In performing direct actions, activists must deal with material configurations of power and with differentially structured political and judicial cultures; they are also, evidently, social agents who are capable of experiential learning and tactical adaptation, and in constructing meanings for their actions. How these actions are democratic, or understand democracy, and the role of the state, is crucial for our conceptual understanding of what an action is, of how it formulates critique; it is also crucial for our understanding of the instability of the meaning of actions, and the processes through which they become stabilised and acquire social meaning.