Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Rent-a-Crowd—on the Possibilities of Postmodern Politics and Anti-globalisation Struggles

Dr Alaine Chanter.

The conservative Government in Australia has coined the term “rent-a-crowd” to belittle protestors attending anti-war, anti-US, anti-corporate or anti-globalisation demonstrations. Its intention is to suggest that these demonstrations are attended by a cluster of “professional protestors” who merely relocate from “demo” to “demo” in the interests of causing trouble and, in the process, having a good time. There is a further suggestion in the term of a fickle attachment to the issues being protested—the idea that the protestors’ capacity to maintain their rage, no matter what the issue at hand, proves that the issue is of little importance compared to the fun of the performance. The idea also belittles as opportunistic the presence at demonstrations of different interest groups who use the occasion to advocate for their own narrower interests (e.g. gay rights or a Palestinian homeland).

This paper analyses the contemporary politics of protest using the 2000 S11 protests in Melbourne as a case study. It argues that some of the elements invoked in the discourse of rent-a-crowd—in particular the ideas of opportunism, fickleness and fun—can be read in an affirmative way as signifying the contours of a new progressive politics that reflects the ascendancy of postmodern culture in contemporary sociality. This politics works across differences to forge coalitional movements comprised of disparate groups. It derives from what I term the po-mind (postmodern mindset) from whence emerges, I argue, the possibilities of radical democratics


Dr Alaine Chanter  (Australia)
Senior Lecturer
School of Creative Communication
University of Canberra

Alaine Chanter is a Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies and Communication at the University of Canberra. Her areas of research include the politics of cultural identity and the theory and strategy of progressive politics in the context of anti neo-liberal globalisation struggles.

  • Postmodernism
  • Globalisation
  • Democratics

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)