The everyday abnormal and the quest for normalcy

How Polish equality marches build protester resilience


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Illiberal regimes and societies test resilience and provoke resistance, especially from targeted minority groups. But this abstraction can obscure the complexity of specific events and participants’ emotional motivation. What are the emotional and cognitive responses of protest participants within illiberal contexts? This article investigates this question by focusing on LGBT-rights protest participants in contemporary Poland. Using testimony from in-depth semi-structured interviews with participants from 2019 equality marches, we identify emotional and cognitive responses that centre around a quest for normalcy. Illiberal politics in Poland, especially when contrasted with perceptions about LGBT acceptance in neighbouring countries, have made everyday life 'abnormal,' where LGBT individuals fear increasing violence and feel unable to act normally. Protest participation opens a space where LGBT individuals and allies can feel normal. This experience of normalcy effectively claims recognition of one's 'normal' humanity. In turn, this builds resilience within participants to endure the deterring effects of everyday life and to continue their advocacy for LGBT rights.

Author Biographies

Jana Hrckova, Central European University

Jana Hrckova is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at the Central European University. Her dissertation research focuses on air pollution and green infrastructures in Warsaw.

Michael C Zeller, Central European University

Michael C. Zeller is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at Central European University (CEU). His dissertation research concerns the demobilisation of far-right demonstration campaigns, particularly the role of counter-mobilisation against the far right. He is also an Associate Researcher at the CEU Democracy Institute, working on the ‘Building Resilience against Violent Extremism and Polarisation’ (BRaVE) project. He is also the head of the Organisation Research Unit at the Centre for the Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR).






Resilience and resistance in illiberal regimes