FIGHTING A LOSING BATTLE? – WHY CORONA PROTESTERS KEEP GOING IN RURAL AREAS
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Research on corona protests has largely focused on protests in capital cities while neglecting rural areas. I argue that this limitation is not only an inappropriate constriction of this phenomenon itself but also underestimates the spread of the protests. Moreover, leaving out rural areas might omit im-portant general motives and underlying issues of the protesters. This study’s objective was to analyse the personal factors and group characteristics that motivate the rural corona protesters to continue despite little press coverage and political attentions. For this, I carried out a typical case study of the rural village of Ottersberg in Germany. Specifically, I conducted in-depth interviews with protesters at the weekly demonstrations between May 16th and June 13th, 2022. This study has found that, with respect to personal factors, the perceived violation of individual norms holds greater weight than the perceived violation of group norms. Intrinsic motivation arises from ex-periencing a sense of agency and is of particular importance to the protesters. This drives them to take the group’s goals and convictions into the public, which presents another important factor. Nonethe-less, the protesters only partially believe in the group’s capacity to bring change. Turning to the group characteristics, overarching vague group values and a sense of shared disad-vantages are key. Further, a sense of belonging to the group is fundamental for participation and the protest’s continuation. It is based on the individual experience of added emotional value from the group, which provides a space for reassurance and protected self-expression. The findings highlight the Ottersberg protest group's individualistic nature, suggesting another route for groups taking collective action. Additionally, they contribute to a more nuanced understanding of German protests against corona containment measures in understudied rural areas. Finally, these find-ings have direct implications for communication about future health crises, which should concentrate on taking these anxieties and motives into account. This could contribute to lessening political apathy in addition to reconciling a polarised society.