Social Representations of Protest and Police after the Genoa G8 Summit: A Qualitative Analysis of Activist Accounts of Events

  • Adriano Zamperini University of Padua, Italy
  • Marialuisa Menegatto Italian Society of Psychosocial Science for Peace
  • Giovanni A. Travaglino University of Kent, UK
  • Eugene Nulman University of Kent, UK


The Genoa G8 Summit of 2001 was marred by violence and conflicts between police and activists. Afterwards, these different groups constructed clashing discourses about the events. In turn, these discourses sustained different types of social representations about the nature of the conflict. Earlier analyses of hegemonic social representations examining the Italian press suggested that non-violent activists were subject to processes of delegitimisation and that they were identified with black bloc activists (Cristante, 2003; Juris, 2005; Zamperini & Botticini, 2006). Conversely, in this study we analyze activists’ accounts of the protest and of the violent police repression. We examine a collection of published texts (N= 223) posted on a ‘cyber-wall’ online as part of a collaborative project from three Italian media outlets: Il Manifesto, Radio Popolare, Carta. These texts represent a form of ‘counter-narrative’ produced by a stigmatized group to contest the dominant discourse, creating a tripartite of relations between non-violent activists, police and the black bloc. The analysis of these texts shows that activists represent the protest as a battle between two groups. Activists describe police as coercive, incompetent, and as the enemy. While the black bloc was perceived to have damaged the protest, they were not depicted as the enemy. Cognitive, emotive and behavioural factors associated with these representations are highlighted and discussed, together with the implications for future intergroup relations between activists and the police.

Author Biographies

Adriano Zamperini, University of Padua, Italy

ADRIANO ZAMPERINI is Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Padua, Italy. He is the author of more than 100 scientific publications, which include articles in national and international journals, communications at national and international congresses, and essays in collective volumes. Fields of research in Social Psychology: solidarity and indifference, social injustice and human rights, social exclusion and ostracism, interpersonal and collective conflicts, war and peace, psychology of health. His books include Psicologia sociale della responsabilità [Social psychology of responsibility], Utet, Turin (1998); Psicologia dell'inerzia e della solidarietà [Psychology of inertia and solidarity], Einaudi, Turin (2001); Prigioni della mente [Mind prisons], Einaudi, Turin (2004); L’indifferenza [Indifference], Einaudi, Turin (2007); L’ostracismo [The ostracism], Einaudi, Turin (2010).

Marialuisa Menegatto, Italian Society of Psychosocial Science for Peace

MARIALUISA MENEGATTO, clinical and community psychologist, is researcher at the Italian Society of Psychosocial Science for Peace, a regional non-profit organization based in Italy, where she is also vice-president. Her research interests include social conflicts and practices of reconciliation, interpersonal and inter-ethnic relations, social justice and forms of exclusion and violence, victimology, human rights, war and peace. Her publications include: Cittadinanza ferita e trauma psicopolitico [Wounded citizenship and psychopolitical trauma] (co-authored with A. Zamperini), Naples, Liguori 2011, and co-edited (with expert) La società degli indifferenti [Society of the indifferent], Rome, Carocci 2011.

Giovanni A. Travaglino, University of Kent, UK

GIOVANNI A. TRAVAGLINO is a PhD candidate at Centre for the Study of Group Processes and Associate Lecturer at the School of Psychology, University of Kent. His research interests include the Social Psychology of leadership and deviance, collective actions and the epistemology of psychology. He is currently Editor-in-chief of Contention: The Multidisciplinary Journal of Social Protest and associate chair for the Theory, Action and Impact of Social Protest conference.

Eugene Nulman, University of Kent, UK

EUGENE NULMAN is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Kent and an Assistant Lecturer in the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research. His research focuses on social movements, particularly regarding participation and outcomes. He is co-editor of Contention: The Multidisciplinary Journal of Social Protest and committee chair for the Theory, Action and Impact of Social Protest conference.