Occupy Wall Street: A Hybrid Counterpublic

Occupy Wall Street: A Hybrid Counterpublic

Shreya Subramani



In this article, I explore the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Movement in New York City as a hybrid counterpublic. I conducted research on OWS during its encampment at Liberty Plaza from September-November 2011 to understand its membership, emergence, and growth. I describe OWS as a hybrid counterpublic mediated by discourse that is both physically, through the use of bodily performance, and virtually, through social media channels online, circulated. These discursive forms embody the ideological principles of decentralization of power, collective participation, and individual agency. OWS created innovative spaces, practices, and temporalities to extend the existing social architecture and modes of communication, effecting democratic deliberation through affective performance. The hybridity of this constructed social space has allowed for novel sensorial experiences that expand and reinforce engagement with the OWS counterpublic. I propose that OWS has allowed for significant social actors to emerge and become publicly salient while subverting hegemonic institutions of the state and dominant civil society through the redefinition of citizenship. Since the eviction of the Liberty Plaza encampment, OWS in New York City has lost some traction. This signifies the integral symbiosis between the virtual and physical discursive realms of the movement’s existence and sustainability. Furthermore, this analysis of the OWS movement demonstrates the cultural emergence of a new hybrid counterpublic that mediates the way Americans engage with politics, dissent, and everyday life.

Keywords: Counterpublics, sensorial hybridity, affective performance

Download Full Text – Subramani 2013


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