Submitted on Tuesday, 9/19/2023, at 1:55 PM

Public Seminar – “Aggrieved crowds have been throwing objects—stones, shoes, pies, eggs—that have doled out insult and injury in equal measure seemingly for centuries,” writes Chowdhury, associate professor of anthropology, in an excerpt from an essay first published in Social Research: An International Quarterly. “A common show of collective grievance, pelting has lost neither its significance nor its frequency over time.”

Chowdhury gives historical examples of displeased audiences pelting public figures, from the Roman emperor Vespasian, to playwright Oscar Wilde, to the newly crowned King Charles III of England. She relates pelting to other scholars’ theories about crowds and “the ‘carnivalesque,’ a term Mikhail Bakhtin used to describe an ethos similar to that of the medieval carnival.”

“Even when individual perpetrators of pelting are heroized or punished (remember Muntadhar Al-Zaidi, the Iraqi shoe thrower?), pelting is a performance of crowd sovereignty in all its joyous, violent, fun, furious, and law breaking glory,” the professor writes. “Spontaneous and ritualistic, orgiastic and meticulous, funny and somber, pelting is both a medium and a metaphor of the crowd.”