In June 2013, the journalist Vincent Bevins found himself covering a mass street protest in São Paulo, originally sparked by a rise in bus fares. As the tear canisters rained town and violent clashes with police began, the protesters began chanting “Love is over. Turkey is here,” making a intentional connection to another uprising taking place across the world in Gezi Park in Istanbul. These parallel events, along with other major upheavals such as the Euromaidan movement in Ukraine, mark the highlights of a critical decade in modern history in which more people took place in mass protest events across the world than at any other time.
And what we are left with after these disruptive, destabilizing events take place, how it reshapes the state and reconfigures political representation in the aftermath, is quite far from predictable and much less clear in terms of the public understanding of their meaning. This is the focus of Bevins’ excellent new book, “If We Burn: The Mass Protest Decade and the Missing Revolution,” which ambitiously presents a history of the 2010s, globally, through the lens of popular uprisings and their discontents. Bevins, who also joined the Departures podcast in 2020 to discuss his other book, “The Jakarta Method” (more relevant now than ever, read it!), explains how he wrote If We Burn with distinct openness and neutrality, which allows readers to approach the work from many angles, and draw their own understandings of how these popular uprisings so often failed to produce the outcomes that they aspired to, and what can be learned for the future.