Everything but the Funnel Cake: Creative Protest and the University of Puerto Rico Student Occupation of 2010
Everhart, Katherine Tracy
In the summer of 2010, students of the University of Puerto Rico occupied 11 campuses of the island-wide system for 62 days in protest of austerity measures by newly elected Governor Luis Fortuño. Over time, the occupation became known as “The Creative Occupation,” distinguishing it from past political protest on the island, denoting the overwhelming presence of artistic, cultural, and creative expressions. My dissertation examines how student activists came to understand creative protest and how these expressions of creativity in turn influence dynamics of movement difference and diversity. Drawing upon a qualitative case study, including participant observation, 25 in-depth interviews, and an analysis of movement documentation, such as newsletters, memorandums, photographs, videos, and social media, I explore the relationship between two distinguishing features of the occupation at the University of Puerto Rico—that of, artistic and cultural expressions and movement diversity. My key findings are that creativity in protest works to manage movement diversity by enabling activists to both unify and differentiate activists within the movement, while also mitigating the tensions that may arise between heterogeneous activists within social movements. This research reveals both longstanding protest challenges and modern configurations in culture, polities, and civic engagement.