Tag Archives: emotion

Ties and Their Turbulence

A funny thing happens on the way to understanding activists’ social bonds; when we interrogate them closely, they flutter away into a whirlwind of micro-sociological turbulence. This essay suggests the importance of theorizing that turbulence.

In recent decades, the most significant advances in conceptualizing social organization have come from network theory. Network theory integrates both the tug-and-pull of social turbulence and the possibility of agency. It offers a general, formal framework for conceptualizing structure, but also allows empirical and theoretical specificity (Emirbayer & Goodwin 1994:1418). The study of social movements has been at the forefront of those advances (Bearman 1993; Gould 1991), and we now know much more about the mechanisms through which networks influence larger patterns of mobilization (McAdam & Paulsen 1993; McAdam, Tarrow, & Tilly 2001; Diani & McAdam 2003). However, the mandate to identify mechanisms in social ties always references the broader explanatory level. It seeks inroads only into how ties “matter” and “work” to produce broader outcomes. Continue reading

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The global body politics of attending the ASA; or the political consequences of mundane occurrences

Staying at the Best Hotel in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco is a sociologically informative experience. The Best Hotel is splendidly located only two blocks away from the two ASA conference hotels and it is relatively cheap ($120 per night as opposed to $300), booked only ten days in advance; yet, I am guessing, it is not among the most desirable housing options for conference participants. The hotel reviews depict the place as located in an area where homeless people, drunks, and drug addicts loiter. Some reviewers even report bed bugs, which horrifies a San Francisco friend of mine most of all. While waiting for my room to be ready−I was being treated to a brand new bed [a sigh of relief!]−the manager, who is also a concierge, repairs guy, and anything else that he needs to be, regretfully informs me that “My only problem is the homeless and the drug dealers in front”. Indeed, the place isn’t that bad. The room is large and clean (I am not a fan of the smell of the cleaning products used but I can live with that for a few days, I try to convince myself). It has a bathroom en suite, free Internet, and coffee 24 hours: the traveler’s essentials. Continue reading

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Planet of the Apes: Pop Culture and Changing Social Consciousness

The 8th edition to the Planet of the Apes franchise was released this Summer. The most recent revival started in 2011 with “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” picked up where “Rise” left off. I won’t go into detail about the storyline since it is such an iconic movie, but the latest two explore the ethical concerns underlying human exploitation of animals, specifically in terms of animal research.

(Spoiler Alert for “Rise.”)

I watched “Rise” about a year ago with my family. During the scene where Caesar leads a revolt against an abusive so-called primate sanctuary, my cousins emphatically rooted for Caesar. They don’t have any strong beliefs in favor of animal advocacy; they were just rooting for the underdog protagonist. The factors that go into a person’s shift towards caring about a social justice issue are multi-faceted, but I think these kinds of popular media cues have an effect that scholars are just starting to examine. Continue reading

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Movement InFighting: Can it serve a purpose?

The Animal Rights National Conference 2014 (ARNC) will be held in Los Angeles on July 10th-13th. An organization called the Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) organizes the conference. As the organization says on its website, the conference is “the world’s largest & longest-running event dedicated to the liberation of animals from all forms of human exploitation and use.” Even with this clear declaration of “liberation,” and FARM’s history of not participating in politically reformist tactics, FARM’s conference is attacked virtually every year for not being abolitionist, or radical, enough. Prominent figures in the movement, such as Gary L. Francione, accuse the organizers of not adhering to strictly to all-or-nothing vegan advocacy on behalf of animals. Francione is a law professor, author, and a major figurehead in the movement. Most of his current work contains little outside of bashing activists who use anything except educational outreach about veganism. Continue reading


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The Mobilizing Powers of Collective Traumas: A Role for Moralities and Emotions

By Stephen F. Ostertag

Scholarship examining the role of trauma, moralities, and emotions in explaining mobilizations is undergoing a renaissance (e.g., Goodwin, Jasper, and Polletta 2000, 2001; Goodwin and Jasper 2006; Flam and King 2007; Jasper 1998, 2011).  New questions on how people experience, understand, and [re]act to traumatic events and the role of morals and emotions in these developments will help uncover some of the dynamic and nuanced social processes that underscore mobilizations (Kurzman 2008).

David G. Ortiz and I have spent the past four years examining a variety of digitally-mediated mobilizations and civic participations that people organized and took part in in the wake of hurricane Katrina (Ortiz and Ostertag 2014). Continue reading

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Affect and Trauma in Italy

By Andrea Hajek  

Over the past few decades, the role of memory communities in keeping alive forgotten or silenced memories of police repression has proven essential in Italy. This is due not only to the low commitment or unwillingness of the State to bring justice to these victims: in many cases the State has also been involved in the violence. Thus, in a commentary to a television documentary, Ilaria Cucchi – the sister of 31-year-old Stefano Cucchi, who died in an Italian prison in 2009 – described the situation of her family and, by extension, of other families of victims of police repression in Italy, as follows:

 …were it not for our perseverance, for the fact that we turned our anger into the courage to say “We will not accept being denied the truth” – were it not for this, then the stories  [of our loss] would just end, they would have ended on that day. And we realize that, as we go on, we are the only power that we have.

In this blog post I would like to focus on a case of police violence that occurred more than 30 years ago. On March 11, 1977, Francesco Lorusso, a medical student and sympathizer of a left-wing extra-parliamentary group, got involved in a conflict between left-wing and Catholic students at the University of Bologna. Continue reading

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Of Heroes and Villains: Breaking Open the Grey Zone of Human Action

By Michaela Soyer

After more than 70 years, the Warsaw ghetto uprising remains an almost mythical example of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. After the war, some of the survivors immigrated to Israel and created the Ghetto Fighters Kibbutz. In 1949, the year the kibbutz was founded, these men and women represented a narrative of survival against all odds welcomed by the new Zionist state. A quarter of a century later the construction of heroic survival loomed large over the beginnings of Holocaust remembrance. In 1976, Yad Vashem revealed Nathan Rapoport’s memorial commemorating the uprising. The sculpture portrays the Warsaw ghetto fighters as super-humans. In Rapoport’s depiction, they resemble Greek gods rising from the ashes of the Warsaw ghetto. Continue reading

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Corporeal Social Movements

Many of us who study social movements were at one point involved in social movements. Those who are, or have been, involved in a social movement have probably experienced the emotional intensity and the accompanying emotional and bodily exhaustion so often connected to social movements. Activists put their bodies on the line for a particular cause, risking permanent damage either by injury during a protest or action—accidental or on purpose—or by devoting long hours to the cause, to the point of emotional and physical exhaustion. Conversely, there is also the daily boredom and repetition that often accompanies movements—copying filers, scheduling and attending endless meetings and events, writing press releases, etc. For me, concepts like Political Opportunity Structure, Resource Mobilization, and Discursive Opportunity Structure, while important, fail to capture the intense, emotional, and at times boring, lived experience of activists.

Matthew Mahler has picked up on the divergence between scholarly analysis and lived experience in the field of professional politics in his article “The day before Election Day” Continue reading


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Revolutionary Fervor


A Protester carrying a sign in Puerta del Sol’s Square in Madrid in May 2011, a couple months after the Egyptian Revolution. The sign reads “Tahrir Square.”

When Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vender set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, he could not have imagined that his action would lead to a nationwide mass movement in his own country, described as the first revolution in the events known as the Arab Spring of 2011.  He could not have at all conceived that his action, followed by his country’s revolution, would become “contagious,” spreading to Tunisia’s North African neighbors Egypt and Libya and beyond. Despite how the events known as the Arab Spring and their complex outcomes have developed and that some have involved a certain degree of civil war as well as international intervention, most entailed large mass protests. In addition, the Arab spring revolutions began as a chain of revolts across several different countries. Each Arab spring revolution was distinct but was constituted, in part, by the regional reverberations of the Arab spring revolutions across national borders. Continue reading


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How I’ve understood music’s role in activism

By William F. Danaher

This essay assesses the use of music in activism. Most of the research I’ve coauthored on music and activism has been from a historical perspective analyzing social movements. This poses special problems for the researcher who is seeking to assess the role of music in activism. When one is on the ground, direct observations can be made of what music is used and the effect it has on movement participants. If one attends a rally or participated in a march, the effects of the music can be directly seen and felt.  For instance, a friend and I once observed a rally for striking hotel workers in a major city. We marched several blocks through the streets to a gathering spot outside one of the city’s largest hotels. Popular music was playing from speakers. On stage, a speaker was shouting and chanting above the music, getting people to respond in unison. After the crowd was sufficiently excited, the speaker began to recount the problems the staff encountered while working in hotels. I looked around the crowd and saw some of my colleagues; to this day, when I see them, I think of this moment. So being there can elicit emotions in the short-term that can have long-term effects and give the researcher a greater sense of understanding. Continue reading


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