A Study in Movement Agency (and some inspiration to boot)

If you find yourself with some extra time over the holidays and haven’t yet caught the Women, War and Peace series from PBS, get thee to the nearest electronic device with a screen and have a seat.  The entire five-part series is now available online, but if your time is limited, start with Pray the Devil Back to Hell.  This episode chronicles the journey of 2011 Nobel Prize winner Leymah Gbowee and her comrades as they used creative forms of nonviolent protest to demand and secure peace in Liberia after years of civil war.  The women of Liberia are a force, and their story is deeply moving.  Moreover, for students of social movements, the Liberian case is a fascinating illustration of agency.  These women didn’t wait for an opportunity; they made one.

1 Comment

Filed under Daily Disruption

One response to “A Study in Movement Agency (and some inspiration to boot)

  1. Jeff Larson

    I haven’t seen the PBS series yet (thanks for the link), but I have seen and happily recommend the documentary about the women’s peace movement in Liberia. For me one of the most notable features of this movement was its skilled deployment of gender (i.e., femininity) to achieve its goals. Bernstein’s (1997) theory of identity deployment (http://tinyurl.com/88jyxkw) suggests that a combination of political access, organizational structures, and oppositional forces influences whether movements celebrate or suppress their differences from the mainstream. In this case, because these women had access to powerful decision makers, an inclusive organization, and faced opposition within the polity, they suppressed their differences and behaved in ways consistent with the dominant (masculine) culture. They deployed their gender identity to challenge the culture’s perception of women even as they campaigned for a lasting peace.


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