Archives for Feb,2017

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Feb 13

COLLECTIVE IDENTITIES AND THE ADHERENT

Social movement theory suggests that successful movements are held together by collective identities. This is often summarised as an identity of ‘us’ against ‘them’ over ‘this’. In my research project Other People’s Struggles, I’m examining conscience constituents, who are participants in social movements who do not stand to gain themselves if the movement accomplishes its goal. They are usually contrasted with beneficiary constituents who do stand to gain.

One question I am considering is where the conscience constituents fit into the collective identity. In certain sorts of social movement, they are not quite one of ‘us’, but nor are they one of ‘them’ either. Think, for example, of White sympathisers with the African-American civil rights movement in the 1960s as its collective identity became more defined by Black experiences and consciousness. Or consider men who supported feminist movements in the 1970s. Are they ‘us’ or ‘them’? The answers were complex, and the question divided both movements. The conscience constituent is, I think, a ‘liminal’ figure, positioned between ‘them’ and ‘us’. Perhaps the conscience constituents can share the ‘this’ – that is, the goal of the struggle. But sometimes, they frame the ‘this’ differently to the beneficiary constituents. They understand it differently. It means something different to them.  Here, as in many other places, the conscience constituent participates, but differently.

IMAGE CREDIT: SHIRLY ELIRAN, WOOING (EXCERPT) FROM BETWIXT AND BETWEEN (2016), HER ANIMATION BASED ON VICTOR TURNER’S WORK ON LIMINALITY.

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Feb 08

ADHERENCE AND ANTI-IMPERIALISM

I’ve been researching another case study for Other People’s Struggles. It concerns adherence in the anti-imperialist movement. The focus of the chapter is on India, and the degree to which non-Indians could be involved in anti-imperialist struggle. It’s usually assumed that there were no obstacles: that the Indians were grateful for whatever help they got. However, I argue, Indian nationalists were never simply grateful. They regarded outside help in a variety of ways: accepting it, rejecting it, seeking to mould it, working around it. My theory is that these calculations were a function of orientation and ambition, two concepts I am developing as part of the project to explain variation in the use that is made of adherents by social movements.  

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