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January 23, 2006

A Question of Identity and Scholarship

As we discussed in class changes in social movements have also mirrored changes within the academy. SInce I have chosen to adopt the American Indian Movement for this course (and as I have done previous research on Native American issues), I have encountered a number of scholarly problems concerning the ethnic identity of the critic in relation to the treatment of Native subject matter. Some have argued (mostly in opposition to Ward Churchill, prominent native rights activist and infamous free speech martyr, as well as the former chair of the Ethnic Studies department at the University of Colorado, and not a member of a federally recognized tribe) that non-native scholars who write on Native American topics, have little understanding of the lived experiences and histories of Native Americans and are thus unable to accurately represent the beliefs and attitudes of the native american movements. There is a distinct discourse of ownership as it relates to identity and scholarship among radical Native American scholars. In other words, you have to be a Native American Scholar to be a scholar of Native American topics. I, myself, share no racial or cultural affiliation with any American Indian group, however I find the issues surrouding their historical and rhetorical exclusion from American politics fascinating and an area I would like to explore further study in. As I approach the American Indian Movement I am confronted with the problem of "speaking for others" as it relates the the texts and contexts I choose to analyze. Identity politics in the academy is just as prominent as it is within the American Indian Movement. If it were the case that I could only write about my own lived experiences and culture history than could I only write about Irish immigrants and middle class labor movements because that fits with my cultural identity? It seems a tad essentialist to say the ethnic identity chooses your scholarly interest. Seems to bring up the image of the "noble savage" that is westernized yet feels a spiritual connection to the tribe and nature by virtue of race. My question is three-fold: 1) do others "adopted" movements that you all are investigating share this same notion that you must have a shared cultural experience to be an authentic voice for an aggreved community 2) Is there a powerful argument either way on this question? 3) How do you write good scholarship about social movements of aggreved communities without being essentialist or "speaking for others" in a negative light?

January 22, 2006

Defining Social Movements

Usually when I start exploring a concept, I always try to begin with some basic definitions--to help ground my thinking even if these change as I go through the project itself. Here is a collection of some I had from Crossley: Making Sense of Social Movements, 2002 (sorry for an incomplete bib…pulling these from notes I had from another project). GIven our lecture last time about different ways to study social movements in the academy, we can imagine which orientation these definitions were developed from.

Blumer (1969): Social movements can be viewed as collective enterprises seeking to establish a new order of life. They have their inception in a condition of unrest, and derive their motive power on one hand from dissatisfaction with the current form of life, and on the other hand, from wishes and hopes for a new system of living. The career of a social movement depicts the emergence of a new order of life.

Eyerman and Jamison (1991): Social movements are…best conceived of as a temporary public spaces, as moments of collective creation that provide societies with ideas, identities, and even ideals.

Tarrow (1998): Contentious politics occurs when ordinary people, often in league with more influential citizens, join forces in confrontation with elites, authorities, and opponents…when backed by dense social networks and galvanized by culturally resonant, action oriented symbols, contentious politics leads to sustained interaction with opponents. The result is a social movement.

Della Porta and Diani (1999): Informal networks based on shared beliefs and solidarity which mobilize about conflictual issues through the frequent use of various protests

Crossley: “Part of movement in social movements is a transformation in the habits, including linguistic and basic domestic habits, that shape our everyday lives? (8)

A process whereby several different actors, be they individuals, informal groups, and/or organisations, come to elaborate, through either joint action and/or communication, a shared definition of themselves as being part of the same side in a social conflict. (Mario Diani, “The Concept of Social Movement,? The Sociological Review, (1992), 2.)

January 19, 2006


Welcome to the internet blog for COMM 8110: Social Movement Rhetoric, Theory, and Practice. This blog space is a public forum for discussion, commentary, links, resources, and research. How it grows and how useful it becomes is really up to you. Be respectful of one another, but don't be afraid to talk. Don't obsess over your grammar. Don't worry about your prose. Don't be intimidated by the technology.

Simply write.

Work out your thoughts and ideas and be open to the ideas of others. Good luck!

Kirt Wilson