Tag Archives: biographical availability

Review: Patterns of Protest

By Rens Vliegenthart

Catherine Corrigall-Brown, Patterns of Protest: Trajectories of Participation in Social Movements (Stanford University Press, 2012) Stanford University Press

Catherine Corrigall-Brown, Patterns of Protest: Trajectories of Participation in Social Movements (Stanford University Press, 2012) Stanford University Press

It is a fascinating question and one that intrigues both social movement scholars and activists: why do people participate in contentious politics and protest? And also, why do they remain active or decide to withdraw? It is exactly those questions that Catherine Corrigall-Brown tries to answer in her book Patterns of Protest. Trajectories of Participation in Social Movements. She rightfully argues that most of us carry a misconception of “the” activist as someone who is fully and life-long devoted to one single cause and largely acts within one organization. This type of person, however, is very rare. People get involved in a social movement organization, stay active for a while, but are likely—for one reason or the other—to stop after a certain time completely, or move on to a different organization and/or cause. Continue reading

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Filed under Essay Dialogues, Great Books for Summer Reading 2013

Student Protest: A Perspective from the UK

By Nick Crossley

I approach student activism as an academic sociologist motivated by the question of why students, as a group, seem so often to be involved in political struggles around the world, compared with other social groups, and why, as some of my own work suggests, the process of going to university seems to have a politicising effect upon some. Students are more prone to become involved in political struggles of various kinds than many of their contemporaries.

Much of the academic research on student movements focuses either upon the supposed psychological characteristics /conflicts of young people or the supposed liberal values imparted to young people by way of higher education. Neither of these accounts will suffice, however. Continue reading

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The Return of Student Protest

By Nella Van Dyke

For those of us who were present on a college campus in the 1980s, the tents of the students participating in the Occupy movement on campus this past year provided a feeling of nostalgia, and even a sense that things are as they should be.  College students should be protesting, and when a long time goes by without a visible protest on my campus, I think something is wrong.  When I was an undergraduate at the University of Michigan in the mid-1980s, I was accustomed to seeing the anti-Apartheid shanties on the quad as I walked to class.  As with myself, college student protest makes many people think of a specific era, most often the 1960s.  However, college students have always protested.  The first recorded student protest in the U.S. occurred in 1766, when students at Harvard protested the quality of the butter served in the campus cafeteria.  “Behold our butter stinketh and we cannot eat thereof” was their somewhat tongue in cheek rallying cry (Lipset 1972).  (I can’t help but share this quote whenever I have the opportunity).  Student protest is a part of the college campus landscape and culture, even though at sometimes it is less visible than at others.

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Where Activists Go Next

Catherine Corrigall-Brown’s new book Patterns of Protest: Trajectories of Participation in Social Movements arrived in my mailbox the other day. Her work extends researcPatterns of Protest coverh on movement participants from the moments of initial recruitment, joining, and participation to activist trajectories over time. She notes four distinct patterns that activists follow—persistence (join a group and stay with it), transfer (join, leave for another, potentially repeat), abeyance (join, leave for a while, return to activism, potentially repeat), and disengagement (join, leave for good)—and provides several explanations for why individuals end up following each path. One particularly interesting explanatory focus is the meeting of individual identity and organizational context. As she summarizes:

…the identities participants develop in the course of engagement are shaped by the group’s organizational context. Individuals in multi-issue organizations, for example, which offer a cohesive ideology bringing together a variety of specific issues, are more likely to identify with that ideology than with the specific movement organization in which they participate. As a result, these individuals often transfer to other groups because of the connection between the specific issues of those groups and a larger interconnected set of beliefs. (p126)

Carl Pope

Former Sierra Club Executive Director and Chairman, Carl Pope

While Corrigall-Brown’s empirical focus is on rank-and-file activists, this instance of activist “transfer” got me immediately thinking about the recent announcement of Carl Pope’s departure from the Sierra Club. While the LA Times is framing Pope’s departure as a split over strategy, one could certainly interpret the move within the framework of Corrigall-Brown’s activist trajectories. Continuing Sierra Club leaders suggest that the transition is based in large part on biographical factors as the 66 year old Pope seeks to downshift from the “hugely demanding” roles he has played with the Club over time (Pope spent 38 years with the Sierra Club, including 16 as its executive director and two as its chairman). Pope’s statement, however, suggests that the breadth of his experiences within the Sierra Club may have laid the foundation for his departure from it. As he said in his email to the organization “I am opening my dance card to new partners. In December, I shall stand down as Chairman to undertake a new initiative. My hope is to pull together a broad front of environmental groups, labor unions, clean-economy innovators, mainline manufacturers, civil rights organizations, and state and local officials to insist that candidates for public office in 2012 address the role of innovation, clean technology, and manufacturing in rebuilding the American economy and restoring the American middle class.”

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