Activism and/as education: Reflections on two protests

Year: 2019

Author: Barron, Rosie, Joy

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This presentation explores pedagogy in the context of public protest, focusing on two separate actions organised by sex workers and supporters in Melbourne in 2016 and 2018 respectively. Both protests took place at the same site — the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology — both involved many of the same parties and actors, and both were organised in response to conferences being held at the university. The first protest, which I did not attend, was the subject of a viewpoint paper I wrote about how activist intervention can bring unexpected forms of education into the conference space – in this instance, by drawing on the very same traditions of feminist pedagogy that the conference sought to mobilise (Barron, in press). The second protest, which I attended on the weekend that I submitted this paper, both challenged and extended my observations about the first. This presentation considers these protests at two levels. Firstly, I seek to draw out the ways in which my embodied experience of the 2018 protest complicated my analysis of the 2016 protest, particularly with respect to my account of the ways in which stories were mobilised and, at times, weaponised (see also Phipps, 2016). Secondly, I focus on the significance of the academy in relation to both protests — specifically, the university as the setting, the conference as the target, and the role of academics (including my-budding-academic-self) as witnesses, supporters, and indeed adversaries of protestors. Accordingly, this is a more experimental presentation, which combines descriptive narrative and conceptual engagement with feminist perspectives on storytelling in/as praxis (see Serisier, 2018). The overarching objective of this presentation is to stimulate reflection and discussion on this pedagogical theme, as well as the possibilities and responsibilities of academics when our work, or our means of production, comes into dialogue with social justice struggles (see Pereira, 2016).


Barron, R. J. (in press). Interrupting conferences: Sex workers and public protest. Gender and Education.

Pereira, M. do M. (2016). Struggling within and beyond the Performative University: Articulating activism and work in an “academia without walls”. Women’s Studies International Forum, 54, 100–110.

Phipps, A. (2016). Whose personal is more political? Experience in contemporary feminist politics.” Feminist Theory 17 (3): 303–21.

Serisier, T. (2018). Speaking out: Feminism, rape and narrative politics. London: Palgrave Macmillan.