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Student activists’ affective strategies during the 2010-2011 siege of the University of Puerto Rico

Alessandra Rosa (Department of Interdisciplinary Core Curriculum, Lynn University, Boca Raton, Florida, USA)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 10 October 2016




On December 14, 2010, University of Puerto Rico (UPR) student activists initiated the second wave of their strike at a disadvantage. The presence of the police force inside the campus raised the stakes for the student movement. No longer did student activists have the “legal rights” or control of the university as a physical public space to hold their assemblies and coordinate their different events. As a result, student activists had to improvise and (re)construct their spaces of resistance by using emotional narratives, organizing non-violent civil disobedience acts at public places, fomenting lobbying groups, disseminating online petitions, and developing alternative proposals to the compulsory fee. This second wave continued until March 2011, when it came to a halt after an incident that involved physical harassment to the Chancellor, Ana Guadalupe, during one of the student demonstrations. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


Building on Ron Eyerman’s (2005, p. 53) analysis on “the role of emotions in social movements with the aid of performance theory,” the author center this paper on examining student activists’ tactics and strategies in the development and maintenance of their emotional narratives and internet activism. By adapting Joshua Atkinson’s (2010) concept of resistance performance, the author argues that student activists’ resistance performances assisted them in (re)framing their collective identities by (re)constructing spaces of resistance and contention while immersed in violent confrontations with the police.


Ever since the establishment of the university as an institution, student activism has played a key role in shaping the political policies and history of many countries; “today, student actions continue to have direct effects on educational institutions and on national and international politics” (Edelman, 2001, p. 3). Consequently, and especially in times of economic and political crisis, student activism has occupied and constructed spaces of resistance and contention to protest and reveal the existing repressions of neoliberal governments serving as a (re)emergence of an international social movement to guarantee the accessibility to a public higher education of excellence. Thus, it is important to remember that the 2010-2011 UPR student activism’s success should not be measured by the sum of demands granted, but rather by the sense of community achieved and the establishment of social networks that have continued to create resistance and change in the island.


As of yet there is no thorough published analysis of the 2010-2011 UPR student strike, its implications, and how the university community currently perceives it. By elaborating on the concept of resistance performance, the author’s study illustrates how both traditional and alternative media (re)presentations of student activism can develop, maintain, adjust, or change the students’ collective identity(ies). The author’s work not only makes Puerto Rico visible in the research concerning social movements, student activism, and internet activism; in addition, it provides resistance performance as a concept to describe various degrees of participation in current social movements.



Rosa, A. (2016), "Student activists’ affective strategies during the 2010-2011 siege of the University of Puerto Rico", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 36 No. 11/12, pp. 824-842.



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