Most Surprising?

March 18, 2009

Honestly, the thing I have found most surprising about the field of social movements is that it is “a field.” Granted its not a field like “Communications,” or “Economics,” and one that will most likely NOT lead to employment (especially in this economy) but the academic field of inquiry around the entire realm of social movements is incredibly interesting. It’s not terribly “surprising” just because of the fact that I think academics can inquire into just about anything, build theories around it, and then argue about those theories. But the field of social movements has a good deal of boundaries, fine lines, and common definitions. I think it’s great that people have studied the art of social movements and attempted to turn vast amounts of information into knowledge, and even wisdom, about the issue. Their work will  undoubtedly useful for those that plan and execute social movements in the future. I’m just suprised that things are so acutely defined; i.e. WUNC Displays etc.


Anarchists and Anti-Globalizers

March 4, 2009

New Formulation is an anarchist journal that has merged with “Perspective on Anartchist Theory,” since the publishing of this manifesto. The document is called “The Theory of the Anti-Globalization Movement,” and attempts to frame the anti-globalization movement from an anarchist perspective. Because framing often takes place “within a multi-organizational field,” each organization often prognostically frames the movement in ways that often “refute the logic or efficacy of solutions advocated by opponents as well as rationale for its own remedies.”

“The [anti-globalization] movement’s anti-authoritarian, revolutionary character is currently under attack by an informal network of reformists…they hope to define the movement in a way that renders its most expansive, utopian potentials literally unthinkable. As important as it is to mobilize, anarchists will have to respond to this challenge on the theoretical terrain: we cannot afford to lose the battle of ideas.”

This excerpt literaly sounds like a “framing battle,” in which one group is calling upon its members to wage a framing war against components of the anti-globalization movement that are framing the movement in a way that is antithetical to the Anarachists’ views.

While I am wholly uninformed about the anti-globalization movement, in addition to the radical anarchist movement, I can definitely see the different elements of framing that Snow and Benford mention in their paper. These elements include things like prognostic framing, adversarial framing (painting the “reformists” as evil),  consensus-mobilization and action-mobilization.

Voting Rights for Blacks Circa 1900

February 25, 2009

Veteran of the Civil Rights Movement

February 25, 2009

“We narrate stories to help us process our experiences.” I couldn’t agree more with this statement from the Polletta article. Often times I find myself telling a story, annd the simple act of recounting my experiences and explaining them to an external audience definitely helps in allowing me to come to a deeper and richer understanding of the occurrence. While the three elements of a narrative, as outlined by Ewick and Sibley, are great – they are also quite vague and what remains unclear to me is the value of a narrative post-social movement. The account of Hardy Frye, written in 2003 when he was a 64 year old man, reflects back on his experience during the civil rights era. While the narrative is in wriitten form, it reads as though he were speaking directly to you; substitute grammatical perfection for informal structures that portray the man’s character, background, and culture.

The story begins with Hardy being forced to join the NAACP as a 9 year old in elementary school. He talks of his hometown of tusgagee Alabama and sets the scene for what “The Movement” lookd like from the viewpoint of a young boy. This is what Polletta referred to as the “Becoming Aware” component. He talked of a rift in the civil rights movement that fell along class lines. Where black PhD’s looked down on uneducated blacks and the two circles never mixed despite their common struggle at a time of great social upheaval. He goes to the Army and then moves to L.A. where he pickets JFK’s nomination at the DNC. He then talks of doing sit-ins on Ca governor Pat Brown’s desk to get some fair housing bill passed: “we sat in for about a month on that damn marble floor up there in the rotunda.”

One of the most emotional moments of the narrative is Hardy’s account of a man who was shot in Mississippi during his time there around ’64. he writes “this white cop (there were no Black police at that time) told this cat to run, and they shot him! They shot him. They pulled out a gun and shot that boy in the leg. That happened.” Another moment that Polletta wouldrefer to as “becoming weary” Hardy writes “If you take and put them all down on a list, you can probably find the people easy who were the ones who sold out the biggest and ran away from the Movement. But Movement people are still doing it, still carrying the struggle and vision. So there must be something about this vision that we had that we are still interested in pursuing it. Only now we realize it ain’t going to happen in our lifetimes in most cases. ”

I believe one of the most poignant points made in the entire Polletta article is when she said “narratives put “forthpowerful and persuasive truth claims—claims about appropriatebehavior and values—that are shielded from testing or debate,”” Hardy’s account clearly demonstrates truth claims regarding how people who were once active members of the civil rights movement continue “the struggle” all these years after the movements end. “Fundamentally, we are still the visionaries. But the point we got to remember is what if we hadn’t done it… that’s the question we have to ask.”

Also: Here’s a cool annotated list of narratives from abolition/slavery era –

Barack Obama on Community Organizing

February 15, 2009

Although slightyl time-intensive, i read the entire Barack Obama posting and greatly enjoyed it.  I thought he caputred not only the many prroblems that plague inner-city communiities, but also the importance of grassroots mobilization within those troubled communities. After diiscussing the article with a friend, we ammused ourselves over the possibility that Barack Obama was planning a run for the presidency the second he goot out of college..that or the guy just really really gets it.

Anyway, its interesting reading this 20 years after-the-fact, with the man writing it serving as president of the US.  It makes one quite hopeful for what the administration might bring.  It’s interesting that Obama was writing about the need for grassroots representation over the iconic poster-boy prominent black political figure.

I would say the highlight of the article was “Blatant discrimination has been replaced by institutional racism; problems like teen pregnancy, gang involvement and drug abuse cannot be solved by money alone.” Obama goes on to talk about the exodus of the middle-class black community into the suburbs, and the loss of human capital that this creates within communities. He advocates for strong community and regional cohesion and the need for local leaders taking up the community’s cause. I definitely agree that without these things, inner-city communities will be plagued by their many problems. Individuals living within these communities cannot sit idly by and wait for their problems to be fixed by a mayor, or even by a president Obama, but must rise up and take up their own interests and fight for change.

Community Organizers

February 15, 2009

Hilarious blog from the right-wing perspective railing on the liberal media for not defining community organizing. He goes on to rail on community organizers without giving an adequate description himself. Great…

The CivicMinded Companion defines a Communitiy Organizer as  “An individual who brings people together and nurtures leaders at the local level to solve a common problem or meet a shared need such as improving schools, expanding employment opportunities, widening access to affordable health care and housing, seeking relief from environmental hazards, securing equal rights for immigrants, etc.” I like this definition a lot.

Ed Sills from the Houston Chronicle says that “”Martin Luther King Jr. was a community organizer. Mahatma Gandhi was a community organizer. Cesar Chavez was a community organizer. Great religious leaders, rebels, civil rights activists and just about anyone who has risen up against the status quo and tyranny have been, at heart, community organizers.”

From: “What do community organizers do?” New York Times Sept 13, 2008

“Well, consider Hugh Espey, an organizer with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. On a typical day, he might help low-income residents of Des Moines organize to keep a neighborhood grocery store open or work with family farmers to persuade a state agency to deny a permit for a proposed factory farm, or meet with Mexican families in Marshalltown about ways to advance immigration reform. He brings various constituencies together to find common ground, build relationships and support each other’s causes.”
— Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director, Center for Community Change – working to strengthen community-led, grassroots organizations.

Since I listed Cesar Chavez above I’ll write about him. There was a big controversy in San Francisco over the renaming of a street (formerly Army St.) into Cesar Chavez. Ironically, the street was most commonly known as the best one to pick up hispanic day-laborers. This is ironic because Cesar Chavez founded the American Farm Workers Association to protect the rights of farm workers, many of whom were migrant (and some were illegal) workers. “In 1973, the UFW was one of the first labor unions to oppose proposed employer sanctions that would have prohibited hiring illegal immigrants” (Wikipedia). Although Chavez protected some rights of illegal immigrants, his main focus was the American farmworker, and he led many initiatives that attacked illegal immigrants, primarily those who were being employed as strikebreakers and those who refused to unionize.

Chapters 4-5, Indian Independence

February 15, 2009

Ghandi was the spiritual and political leader of the Indian Independence Movement. A broad coalition of many groups and organizations working to free India from British colonialism. The group incorporated both violent and nonviolent elements. According to Wikipedia, the movement can be traced all the way back to the 16th century. Towards the end of the movement, when it became led foremost by Mahatmas Ghandi, it became wholly nonviolent, which definitely furthered its aims of Indian Independence. India remained under British control until 1950, when it finally became its own independent Republic.

Ghandi’s influence on the movement was momentous, and most likely critical to its success. Ghandi’s vision of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience against a corrupt state brought in millions of ordinary Indians into the movement. Prior to Ghandi’s leadership, the Indian independence movement was mainly made up of elite and upwardly mobile citizens.but after he took ownership of the movement, its doors were blown open to the ordinary people at the grassroots level. Their support was vital to the movements success.

Iron Jawed Angels

February 15, 2009

I had previously seen the movie Iron Jawed  Angels but decided to watch it again in class. I thought it was interesting from a feminist perspective to make a movie about women’s suffrage while interspersing this weird love story between the protaginist female character and some random newspaper editor.  I was also a bit offended by the fact that there were very few positive male characters in the movie. I know the point was to stress women’s roles in bringingabout suffrage but we also discussed after that men did play an important, and somewhat prominent, role in bringing suffrage to fruition. Maybe it was more of a screenplay decision, not wanting to overload the viewer with too many characters or something, but i thought they could have put a few in.

Bringing Down a Dictator

February 15, 2009

Bringing Down a Dictator

I absolutely loved the documentary Bringing Down a Dictator, which was screen in our class on Global Social Movements. The Otpor! student movement is one that should inspire people of my generation all around the world. These students gathered together to promote freedom and liberty for their country under the iron-fisted ruler Slobodan Milosevic. The video was awe-inspiring in that it totally showed what the power of a dedicated group of people with a righteous cause can do. The key successes of the Otpor! movement, in my opinion, were their rightful claims, their nonviolent tactics, their ability to coordinate and mobilize groups across the country, and their branding (I loved the spray-painted closed fist). It was amazing to see this group of young people truly revolutionize and transform a country, bringing down its unrightfully dictator through the power of mobilization, rock concerts, civil disobedience, and mass gatherings. To watch all of Serbia converge on the capital and take it back for the people was awesome.

The Stockport Union

February 15, 2009

The Stockport Union was mentioned on page 30 of the Tilly book. The Stockport Union was officially entitled the The Stockport Union for the Promotion of Human Happiness and began in 1818.  One year after the movement began, 1400 people marched to a reform meeting with banners and stewards. The description of this march was described in the Tilly book by Francis Philips, who said: “the order was beautiful.”  The Stockport Union was part of a much larger gathering of 80,000 people who were assembling to call for parliamentary reform and for free trade. The assembly was soon broken up by what we be referred to today as riot police. Over 300 “protesters” were injured and 5 were killed. It might be important to note that the Stockport Union used 40 women (a rarity for public claims at the time). The Stockport Union was largely began by Reverend Joseph Harrison.  Other than that, the information seems quite difficult to obtain, hinting at the possibility that this social movement fadedaway rather quickly. This might mean that it wasn’t a social movement at all but rather an organization that lobbied for one cause.  Their ruler might have been arrested, leading to the dispersal of the entire group.