This chapter considers masks as enablers or disablers of social activism. Activists have increasingly used masks to shield themselves from the surveillance state in which law enforcement and national security agencies systematise the use of biometric and other identification tools. Social movements use masks as one response to that panopticism. Masks are also a potential means to construct a collective movement identity rather than merely concealing individual identities. Masks may signal that ‘we are together’, committed, and therefore strong rather than merely bystanders. Masks can be used for anonymisation and collective identity by both ‘progressive’ and ‘regressive’ movements, including people seeking regime change on a peaceful basis and those that engage in violence. Anonymisation also means that masks can be used by provocateurs to discredit a protest or to gain intelligence from within a social movement. Finally, masking may be a manifestation of privilege, in which a riot such as the 2021 attack on the US Capitol is understood as carnival or in which law enforcement personnel opposing civil society activism express their impunity from accountability.
|Title of host publication||Research Handbook on Law, Movements, and Social Change|
|Editors||Steven A. Boutcher , Corey S. Shdaimah, Michael W. Yarbrough|
|Publisher||Edward Elgar Publishing|
|Number of pages||15|
|Publication status||Published - 14 Jul 2023|