February 1, 2006

Social Movement Leadership

How is it we are defining leadership in social movments? Stewart, Smith and Denton provide characteristics that leaders must posses (contagious curiosity, irreverence, imagination, a sense of humor, and an organized personality (108)). For me, these characteristics narow the scope of who can be considered a leader to an unfortunate level. If we accept the characteristics outlined by the authors of our text, we seem to negate the role of those individuals who do not serve as figure-heads within a movement.

In addition to those who deliver addresses, lead protests, and become a point around which others rally, there are those who work in the shadows of these individuals to shape both the message and actions of the movement. To focus solely on those figures who publicly deliver the message of the movement because their training, natural ability, social position, etc. makes them a better candidate for the position than others, removes an entire area focus from social movement scholarship. For example, while particular names are escaping me at the moment, within scholarship on the women's rights movement there is suggestion that individuals, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, did not write the entirety of their addresses, that in fact others (such as Susan B. Antony) sometimes crafted Stanton's message. In this example, Susan B. Antony is an acknowledged figure in her own right, but what of movements where this is not the case.

I am most concerned with Stewart, Smith, and Denton's claim that a leader must possess an organized personality. In practice it seems as though the organization of a movement does not rely solely on the recognized leader, but occurs instead outside of the public view and often at the hands of an individual whose face is not a symbol of the message.

I recognize that studying individuals who lead from behind the scenes presents an intereting challenge to those who are interested in the subject. Does this seem like an important area of study or an area that should at least be acknowledge in scoail movement scholarship? Or does a narrow defintion of leader as presented in our text serve the purpose of those interested in these kind of studies? If this is an area scholars should acknowledge, how would one go about studying the role of "behind-the-scene" leaders?

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?