December 14 will mark the one year anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, which left 28 people dead; most of the victims were small children. It is surely a day that will bring up many complicated emotions, and we can expect to see a variety of vigils and commemorative events.
The shootings at Sandy Hook reinvigorated, at least temporarily, discussions of gun control in the United States. They became a rallying point for proponents of stronger restrictions on guns, as well as for those favoring fewer or less stringent gun control laws. Both camps pointed to the Sandy Hook shootings as an example of why their respective approaches to gun legislation were needed to prevent such a horrific event from occurring again. Ultimately, however, the legal changes that resulted from this mobilization were limited. President Obama signed several executive actions concerning background checks, gun safety, and mental health, but the Manchin-Toomey Background Checks Bill failed to pass the Senate. Continue reading
In late August, when news of the Parti Québécois’ (PQ) proposed Charte des Valeurs or Charter of Values spread (the Charter bans the province’s civil servants from wearing “conspicuous” religious symbols), many expressed concerns that this would stir up dormant ethnic and religious tensions in Québec. It led to the removal of the only minority Bloc Québécois Member of Parliament when the MP suggested that the Charter is a form of ethnic nationalism. Early on, critics warned that the proposed Charter would see tremendous backlash calling it draconian, an example of “Stephen Harper-style wedge politics” (Maclean’s, September 20) and even Putinesque (Globe and Mail, August 20). Well-known human rights lawyer, Julius Grey, told Ingrid Peritz of the Globe and Mail that such “values” rules were more typical of the political right than of a party like the PQ that sees itself as progressive. “A charter of values smacks of the [U.S.] Tea Party,” Mr. Grey said. There are two issues here. First, who supports the Charter of Values and who mobilizes around it? Is the Charter tapping into a conservative streak in Québec public opinion and might there be a ring of truth to Grey’s comparison to the Tea Party ? Second, what are the political incentives for the PQ government to pursue such a policy? I don’t claim to provide a complete answer here, but it is clear (at least to me) that this is an attempt by the PQ to set an alternative policy/electoral agenda, confuse the electorate, and reclaim lost territory in rural (and more conservative) Québec where it lost ground. Continue reading
In August 2013 the feminist twitter-sphere lit up with thousands of tweets bearing the hashtag “solidarity is for white women.” NPR article “Twitter Sparks A Serious Discussion About Race and Feminism” outlines the emergence and trajectory of the hashtag.
According to the article, after #solidarityisforwhitewomen was first tweeted by blogger Mikki Kendall on August 12, it rapidly gained traction. During the twitter debates, feminists of color described their absence from “big name feminism” and their lack of inclusion in online feminist dialogue. White women chimed in. Some defended themselves, others acknowledged the importance of the conversation and encouraged their white feminist peers to just listen.
As writer/blogger Roxane Gay wrote: “The #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag reveals fractures in American feminism. Those fractures run so…deep it’s hard to believe they can be healed.” Continue reading
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), should we expect a strong backlash from opponents of gay marriage? If so, what will this backlash look like? Right now, we have heard statements from a few key opponents – from Michelle Bachmann to Mike Huckabee. But will opposition grow into a full-scale countermovement, especially as state legislatures increasingly become the site of the gay marriage conflict? I also ask this question in light of the recent French example where the legalization of gay marriage led to significant involvement of both grassroots and elite elements (albeit motivated by different grievances) converging to attack the Hollande government’s legalization of same-sex marriage.
Supporters of gay marriage celebrate after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act and declined to rule on the California law Proposition 8 in Washington, D.C., U.S. on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg
Countermobilization in France around the recent legalization of gay marriage raises several key issues. First, despite the fact that it was well known to activists that protests would not deter the French government from going through with the legislation, protests grew increasingly more intense and continued to do so following the legislation. Second, as I noted in a previous post, it became increasingly clear that what has people mobilized is not so much the right of gays and lesbians to marry but rather, the part of the legislation that deals with assisted procreation and surrogate motherhood for gay couples. Continue reading
Understood in the broadest sense to include music and street theater as well as all forms of visual representation, artistic expression has an undisputed place in contemporary social activism. There is a long, perhaps even ancient history of wall writing and what we would today call street art and graffiti used as means to express discontent and catch public attention. Recall the humorous scene in Monty’ Python’s Life of Brian, where an occupying Roman soldier corrects the Latin grammar in a rebellious piece of street art. While this may be fanciful fiction, it reflects a reality in the current Palestinian conflict (think local activists as well as Banksy), as well as in our own Occupy movement. More stylized and professional art forms, and artists, have been involved in political protests and movements throughout the modern era and the linkages between aesthetics and politics, art and propaganda has been long debated. Can political art be good art, can good art be political? How effective is politicized art and the artists who make it? What exactly does art do in demonstrations of political protest? These are some of the issues I would like to address. Continue reading
Anglophone municipal leaders are worried that the Parti Québécois (PQ) government is destroying linguistic peace according to a March 12 Globe and Mail article by Rhéal Séguin. Since the PQ formed the minority government late last summer, language has been back on the political agenda in a very contentious way. Québec has had its ethno-linguistic battles historically between the Francophone majority and the Anglophone minority (although the language debate has expanded to include other linguistic groups). Through most of the last decade, the language issue seemed to have quieted down. Scholars like Meadwell and Pinard have described the cyclical nature of mobilization, demobilization and remobilization of the nationalist movement (and by consequence, the ebb and flow in the salience of ethno-linguistic politics). There are numerous reasons given about the perennial revitalization of language politics: from labor market competition, to threats to the French language, to political pandering. Whatever the reason this time, it begs the question as to how Anglophones will respond; specifically if they are more likely to resort to disruptive collective action. Continue reading
A year ago, I wrote a couple of posts about the growing tensions between environmental activists and the Conservative government in Canada, particularly with regards to the Gateway and Keystone oil pipelines. The Conservative government portrayed environmental activists and organizations as radical and in many ways, depicted campaigns against the pipeline as coming from outside of Canada backed by foreign interests. But over the course of 2012, environmental issues became less salient with the public and garnered less attention from the media. Then, in a November 2012 Globe and Mail article, it was suggested that a recent Natural Resources Canada study finding that the chemical in the oil sands is not more corrosive than other oil, is a “major strike against a key argument made by opponents of pipelines.” With a lack of interest, apparently damning evidence against environmental activists, and determination on the part of the government to continue resource development (including the oil sands project), things were not looking good for environmental activists. The Conservative government has continued to champion the pipeline and has called for more proposals for future natural resource development.
As I read across the diverse pieces in this essay dialogue, one thing struck me: where are the bodies? I’ve framed this response as bringing the body “back” in. I’ve included “back” because I like it as a rhetorical device–especially when it allows for alliteration. But I”m bracketing “back” because, unlike other things that we are bringing back in–like emotions and grievances–I’m not sure we had the body in the mix to begin with.
Focusing on the relationship between the body and emotion allows us to get at that long-neglected aspect of social movement dynamics–the protest. Whatever happened to protests? Continue reading
Today is a Day of Action for Worker Justice organized by Witness for Peace, a grassroots organization of people committed to the nonviolent support of those in Latin America and the Caribbean who are affected by unjust U.S. policies and corporate actions. People across the United States are called to fast in solidarity with a group of Colombian workers who were wrongfully fired from a General Motors plant in their country.
This day was brought to my attention by Jess Hunter-Bowman, a friend who is the associate director of Witness for Peace. I was inspired to write this post when Jess told me that several of the Colombian workers have chosen to go on a hunger strike, and some have marked this action by sewing their mouths shut (warning: the photo is a bit graphic). Continue reading