“What responses should I expect from adults when I get involved in activism?”
Gordon, Hava R., and Jessica K. Taft. 2011. “Rethinking youth political socialization: Teenage activists talk back.” Youth & Society (43)4: 1499-1527.
Earl, Jennifer, Thomas V. Maher, and Thomas Elliott. 2017. “Youth, activism, and social movements.” Sociology Compass (11)4.
Terriquez, Veronica. 2015. “Intersectional mobilization, social movement spillover, and queer youth leadership in the immigrant rights movement.” Social Problems 62.3: 343-362.
Although the 2018 midterm elections have not yet been held, it is already clear that one of the biggest stories that will be in the headlines on November 7th will have to do with women’s engagement with the political process. Voter turnout is expected to be unusually high among women, and the “gender gap” in party preferences—with women being much more likely than men to favor Democratic candidates—seems to be wider than it has ever been. What’s more, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of women running for office. In fact, more than 40 percent of Democratic nominees for seats in the House of Representatives are women (compared to about 10 percent of Republican nominees). The essays in this dialogue offer insight into some aspects of women’s increasing involvement in the political process. What factors led so many women into politics (drawing them to the voting booth as well as leading them to run for office)? How may women’s increasing representation in political office reshape relationships between social movements and institutionalized politics in the years to come?
Thanks to our wonderful group of contributors on this topic:
Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo
By Catherine Bolzendahl
The U.S. is poised to witness unprecedented numbers of women engaging in electoral politics in general, and running for political office in particular. By the April 6, 2018 filing deadline, 309 women filed to run for the U.S. House, at a 90% increase since 2016, and a notable uptick in minority women candidates. Although the actual numbers elected are likely to be much lower, these figures are nevertheless remarkable and suggest the potential of one of the wealthiest capitalist democracies in the world to finally join counterparts with 40% or more women in legislature, such as France (39.6%) and Norway (41.4%) or at least to match the European average at 27.7%. The historical reality of American women’s political office holding is, however, quite bleak. Of all the countries in the world, the U.S. is 103rd in women’s legislative presence with 19.6% women, behind Indonesia, Uruguay, and Pakistan. Furthermore, it is particularly important to disaggregate among women elected or running for office, given that reasons for involvement and the possible influence on policy may be highly dependent on how gender intersects with other minority statuses. As a leading advocate for equity, human rights, and democracy, political outcomes in the U.S. elections rarely reflect the diversity of our citizenry. Thus, the recent news is exciting for scholars like myself, who study and support gender diversity in electoral politics, but a lot of work remains.
For activists and advocates in developing countries, funding from international donors is often perceived as a sharp double-edged sword. Financial support from development agencies like USAID, DfID, Sida, or Norad, or private foundations like MacArthur, Ford, or Omidyar can represent a resource windfall for the advocacy initiatives, citizen mobilizations, and policy reforms they labor to advance. Such funding grants are typically larger than anything available from domestic sources. Continue reading
As neo-confederate protesters clashed with protesters supporting the taking down of a confederate monument on campus at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, it felt impossible to divorce these recent protests from their historical context. During the 1913 dedication of Silent Sam, the unnamed soldier commemorating those who left college to defend the confederacy, supporters like student Julian Carr called to the historical linkage with the statue. After Dixie played in the background, Carr proudly told the audience of racial violence he himself engaged in just 100 yards from the site of the statue. The “memorial gateway to campus,” as then President Venable referred to it, stood at the entry way to one of the largest thoroughfares at UNC until last week when it was knocked down by protesters.
The statue has been the site of several waves of protest on campus since it’s erection, with increasing frequency in recent years. Thinking back to the origin story of Silent Sam calls us as social movement scholars to push further down a road that historians and economists have paved – a focus on the impacts of historical legacies of slavery. We can ask questions yet to be answered about how histories of racial violence shape activism in communities.
The years of protest around the contentious figure on campus only further demonstrate that legacies of slavery directly impact contemporary experiences. Beyond the well-documented impacts of legacies of racial violence at the city and state level, assuredly there are microcosms on campuses, in communities, and around various statues and memorials that provide opportunities to understand how history shapes modern-era events. Recent events like the one at UNC call us as scholars to develop an understanding of the mechanism by which these legacies shape mobilization.
Social movement theorists have pointed to the concept of threat as a mobilizing force. Yet whereas many objective conditions are threatening – presenting economic threats, environmental threats, and existential threats – such conditions do not always lead to collective action. What do resistance movements – past, present, domestically, and abroad – teach us about the ways in which threat inspires action? Alternatively, how have contemporary movements and events revised our understanding of the role of threat for mobilization? The essays in this Dialogue may explore a number of questions related to threat and mobilization, including: What kinds of signals do actors take from their environment as cues about threatening conditions, and how do assessments of threat vary across time and space? How do power dynamics intersect with threat to produce action – do marginalized populations respond to different kinds of threat than more privileged actors? Are some kinds of threats more likely to lead to smaller, “every day” acts of resistance, while others result in mass mobilizations? The answers to these questions lend insight to contemporary politics and further theoretical work.
Special thanks to Guest Editors Thomas V. Maher and Rachel L. Einwohner, who organized this exciting dialogue.
Thanks to our wonderful group of contributors on this topic.
Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo
This blog contribution is split between father and son sociologists, Stuart A. Wright and Jared M. Wright, who share research interests in social movements.
Stuart Wright. In their seminal work refining the contentious politics model seventeen years ago, McAdam, Tarrow and Tilly (2001: 43) observed that the attention given to threat as a stimulus to collective action had remained “an underemphasized corollary of the model.” In my research on the Patriot movement leading up to the Oklahoma City bombing (Wright, 2007), I argued that this tendency could be due to the dearth of studies focusing on far-right movements which have invariably postulated a threat by liberal-left state and non-state actors. The Patriot movement and various elements of racial nationalism have come to see state sponsorship of civil rights, cultural pluralism, and social and economic justice as a problem rooted in the power of the federal government, paving the way for increasing antigovernment sentiments. As such, I found the mobilizing potential of threat to be a more significant force in the trajectory of contention that produced violent, anti-government violence. Continue reading