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The political protester as a tourist

Drifter Activism in the Global Justice Movement

Political activism and protest is often a leisure and travel-related activity. People join movements without being paid for it, they travel on their own cost to demonstrations and they probably use up some holiday time from work. More so, the success of international political mobilizations depends on the attraction and successful marketing of certain destinations and certain special interest themes. This tourist character of political activism is not restricted to the field of global politics, or to the present. International solidarity with revolutionary struggles or fights for indigenous rights attracted "Radicals on the road" in the 1930ies as much as today. Travel experiences have been an important inspiration to the political writings of Marx and Engels in the 19th century and Tocqueville in the 18th century. And political protest echoes the search for anarchistic playfulness - insofar it involves the breaking of rules (or shop windows) - on every level down to the local protest, while the rejection of seriousness and rationality are central themes of modern leisure culture. Yet there is a prevailing polemic of "Radical tourism", “Summit Hopping” and “Protest circus” against and within global protest and solidarity movements. The carnivalesque and nomadic aspects of protest are criticised for their alleged self-serving character, their inauthenticity or their functioning as safety valves. Presenting contemporary travel phenomena and practices in the global justice movement against the backdrop of a history of bourgeois political travels, this paper explores drifter activism between the poles of hedonism and solidarity.