Transeuropa: Agency Beyond Borders In Alter-European Activist Networks

Scharenberg, Antje. 2021. Transeuropa: Agency Beyond Borders In Alter-European Activist Networks. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

European nation-states are facing a deep democratic crisis. In the age of planetary challenges related to climate change, migration and rampant inequalities perpetuated by neoliberal globalization, many people experience a sense of powerlessness over the decisions that affect their everyday lives. Brexiteers’ cry to “take back control” is but one of the most illustrative examples of this wider lack of agency. In the midst of this contemporary political crisis, this thesis offers an ethnographic exploration of emerging forms of agency beyond borders in alter-European activist networks.

Conducted in the years between the UK’s vote to leave the EU in June 2016 and the European Parliament elections in May 2019, this engaged ethnographic project follows alter-European activists taking to the streets, roads and parliaments all across the European continent. Drawing on data gathered via participant observation, interviews and alternative media texts, the thesis takes the reader on a journey to a number of protests, activist meetings and political events in different parts of Europe, including to a townhall in the South of France, a feminist workshop in Madrid and a caravan trip across the former Iron Curtain. Here, in the shadows of mainstream media headlines and Brussels institutions, is a movement whose acts transgress not only geographical but also thematic and institutional boundaries.

Paying particular attention to alter-European activists’ collective identity formation, the movement’s nomadic (media)practices and its relationship with municipal movement parties, the thesis argues that in order to understand transnational social movements today, we must centre not the notion of the network, but the concept of agency. To this end, this study develops the idea of transversal agency, which works across struggles, scales and sites. The thesis ultimately suggests that contemporary movements’ capacity to address global challenges depends on the ability to translate between different registers of action.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


agency; activism; social movements; militant ethnography; Europe; transnationalism; municipalism; alternative media; networks

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


28 February 2021

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

21 Jul 2021 10:04

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:19


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