2. Making Ritual Enactments Political: Free Speech after the Charlie Hebdo Attacks

Ritual and Democracy - Protests, Publics and Performances - Sarah M. Pike

Zaki Nahaboo [+-]
Birmingham City University
Zaki Nahaboo is Lecturer in Sociology at Birmingham City University. His PhD thesis 'Beyond Difference Management? Multiculturalism in Britain' was awarded in Politics and International Studies by The Open University in 2015. During his time at the OU, Zaki was part of the 'Oecumene: Citizenship after Orientalism' research team (European Research Council FP7 project). His current research interests are in theories of political subjectivity, refugee mobility in the EU, and the historiography of British imperial citizenship. Zaki has published in Citizenship Studies, Ethnic and Racial Studies, and Interventions.


This chapter discusses how free speech emerged after the January 2015 attacks on Charlie Hebdo. It provides a new interpretation of free speech as a material event, which is irreducible to liberal understandings of free speech as a critical or harmful act. The chapter begins by drawing upon theories of ritual enactments and political subjectivity, so as to better identify the creative political dimensions of protest movements. This offers a basis for witnessing how free speech materialized in the Paris ‘Je suis Charlie’ movement and the Srinagar protests against Charlie Hebdo. The emergence of slogans and objects in demonstrations indicated the transformation of free speech into an object that can be defended or destroyed. In turn, the material crafting of free speech into physical objects, such as banners and effigies, reveal free speech as a clash between iconographic and iconoclastic practices. This chapter develops our understanding free speech’s materialization in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo killings.

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Nahaboo, Zaki. 2. Making Ritual Enactments Political: Free Speech after the Charlie Hebdo Attacks. Ritual and Democracy - Protests, Publics and Performances. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Oct 2020. ISBN 9781781799758. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=39688. Date accessed: 08 Jul 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.39688. Oct 2020

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