Before I started graduate school in my early 30s, I was an activist and organizer through my late teens and 20s. There were some problems that drove me towards wanting to know more, empirically, about the movements in which I invested so much of my youth.
Here are a few of them:
I noticed that the groups I worked with had to deal with state intervention, but had little knowledge about how to respond to that intervention. (Interventions like police repression and brutality, passage of laws that were harmful to the movement’s goals, or even the contradictions involved with getting a permit for mass march.) I noticed that we planned our protests deliberately to get media attention, despite not understanding when or why our protests got the kinds of coverage we wanted. I noticed that a lot of organizations and activists cooperated with politicians on policy reforms, despite not understanding the long-term effects of those policies. I also noticed activists didn’t understand the long-term consequences of more disruptive or militant tactics they used. All of these questions continue to percolate in my thoughts, and in my work. Continue reading