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This article seeks to understand why some bystanders to protest transcended to become actors in protests during the re‑emergence of wide-spread student activism in an institution of higher education in South Africa during 2015. For this purpose, a performance ethnography is employed in the
observation and analysis of protest performances. The article shows that in encountering an atmosphere of protest, there emerged a relation of feeling, referred to as “feeling the vibe or atmosphere”, which those who became protest performers resolved in ways which increased their capacity to act in favour of co‑constituting that atmosphere. In the encounter between the body of bystanders and the atmosphere of protest, non‑linear somatic communication, characterised by active and passive gestures and postures, occurred through which protest performers developed contact and connection with other bodies as a result of the displacement of space. Therefore, this article suggests that participation in activism can be about going with the flow of movement in an uncertain and ambiguous moment and is not limited to an identification with the pre‑existing organisation of preferences and interests as the creativity of movement produces a social space – a performed becoming in space.
Keywords: affect; becoming; protest song; student activism as performance; student politics