In this third post on anti-saccharite cultures I’d like to bring attention to the sugar boycott as the prototype for performing contentious politics and for a range of social movements.
“Contentious politics refers to concerted, counter hegemonic social and political action, in which differently positioned participants come together to challenge dominant systems of authority, in order to promote or enact alternative imaginaries”
(Leitner et al., 2007: 1).
Failure of parliamentary politics
The slave sugar boycott became the key tactic to pressurize government policy on the slave trade after the failure of petitioning tactics and parliamentary pressure used by abolitionists in 1787-90. Social movement and contentious politics theory suggest that the closure of lines of communication between groups and governments is fundamental to the development of a political movement. Littler (2005), Brown (2006) and Micheletti (2003) have declared the slave produced sugar abstinence campaign of 1792 as the original prototype for Western popularised political activism; that in its conception, planning, implications and escalation of ideas into activism it became a blueprint for other forms of political protest and ethical consumption over the ensuing centuries. The video clip below is of the Manchester petition against the slave trade from 1806. Although dated over a decade after the anti-saccharite boycott, the petition gives a good impression of the scale of this new, extra-parliamentary politics.