Tag Archives: identity

Considering Youth as an Identity

By Thomas V. Maher

After the Parkland shooting, Emma Gonzalez gave a thoughtful and furious speech calling “BS” on politicians, the NRA, and corporations for their complicity with the proliferation of guns and gun violence. Gonzalez began her conclusion by stating that “[t]he people in government who were voted into power were lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice…” and ended by calling BS on the notion “that us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works.” In the case of Parkland—as well as recent campus activism—media and supporters have celebrated youth leading the way, but youth activism is not always so well received. John Lewis famously railed against being told to “be patient and wait” by older Civil Rights activists. Others have questioned whether online activism could have an impact. More have raised concerns over whether activism against racism on campus is a misstep or a distraction from addressing institutionalized inequality. But to understand these critiques we must first recognize the role that youth plays as an identity for young activists.

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Filed under Millennials and Activism

The Radical Sixties and the Militant Asian Americans

Fifty years ago, on March 8, 1965, the U.S. Marines landed in Da Nang, marking the beginning of the American ground war in Vietnam. Protests erupted all over the U.S., with the largest anti-war demonstration in the U.S.—the March Against the War organized by the Students for Democratic Society—taking place in April 17. Radicalism in the 60s has been the subject of social movement theories that set the direction of contemporary scholarship. But scholars in the field were remiss in examining a contentious group in American society: Asian Americans.

While Sid Tarrow was visiting Pittsburgh early this month, we had a conversation about the dearth of studies on Asian American mobilization, especially in the 1960s. In recent years, we have noticed a rise in scholarship on the Asian American movement (AAM). But based on a cursory look of undergraduate and graduate courses in social movements, Asian Americans remain invisible in mainstream discussions about the “turbulent 60s.” Continue reading

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Filed under Daily Disruption

Looking in Dark Corners

By Robert Futrell

The 2009 U.S. Department of Homeland Security report, “Rightwing Extremism” surprised many. The report noted a surge in right-wing recruitment and organizing activities in a context of dire economic conditions, immigration fears, Middle East conflicts, returning war veterans, and the potent symbolism of our nation’s first African-American President. Many commentators responded to the report with shock and disbelief. Terror is an external threat, they said, epitomized by violent Jihadis. How dare we turn the terror spotlight inward when we should be united against real extremist threats from afar.

The reality is that right-wing extremists are active in our midst. Continue reading


Filed under Essay Dialogues, Racist and Racial Justice Movements

Religion, Activism, and In Between: The Borders of Identities and Organizations

By Gary Adler

During the height of immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border into Arizona that resulted in hundreds of immigrant deaths and mass deportations, I travelled with a group of college students participating in a weeklong immersion trip focused on immigration injustices. We met with religious activists in the United States, talked with service providers at religious shelters in Mexico, and shared dinner in church buildings with recently deported immigrants. We were led by a faith-affiliated organization born in the 1980’s Sanctuary Movement that is mostly staffed by religious persons and housed in a building laced with religious imagery, from crosses to a portrait of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

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Filed under Essay Dialogues, Religion and Activism

Liberal Protestants and the Occupy movement’s critique of inequality: a cultural gap?

By Paul Lichterman

Courtesy of the Occupy movement, journalists and social critics in the past year have been talking a great deal more than before about a stark divide between the super-rich and the ninety-nine percent. For religious or religiously literate people it is hardly a new topic. We might suppose that in the U.S., today’s mainline Protestant inheritors of the late-nineteenth century social gospel have powerful theological resources for thinking about the growing economic divide and its effects on the social fabric. Mainline Protestant denominations are the ones more likely than their theologically conservative Protestant counterparts to affirm efforts to change the social world rather than see social change as a distraction from personal piety focused on the next world. Theologically liberal Protestantism, strong in Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist and Congregationalist traditions in the U.S., do not lack for text on economic justice or the primacy of people, and God, over profits.[i] Yet it is not clear that the politically progressive voices of mainline Protestants are prominent in America’s vexed, current conversation about money and power. Continue reading


Filed under Essay Dialogues, Religion and Activism

Finding Religion in Movement Activism

By Ziad Munson

In a televised debate last week, Indiana Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Richard Mourdock explained why he opposes access to legal abortion for women, even in cases when women are raped: “I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.”  Mourdock’s comments set off a political firestorm.  Although they reflected an almost universally held view among activists in the U.S. pro-life movement, they are at odds with the views of most Americans.  And the incident reinforces the most common way most people view the relationship between religion and social movements: Mourdock roots his political beliefs in religious ones.  His comments are a prime example of how religion can act as a source of beliefs and justifications within a social movement. Continue reading

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Filed under Essay Dialogues, Religion and Activism

Sources of Organizational Heterogeneity

By Brayden King

Mayer Zald leaves a lasting legacy on our field, in part because of his great intellectual productivity and vitality – I know few people who wrote so much and so well about so many different things – but also because of his important role in bridging the worlds of organizational and social movement theory.  As many before have argued, these two fields have had a long and intertwining history and Mayer had much to do with that. He made a strong case that if we want to understand how social movements evolve over time, we need to zero in on the organizations that drive movement activity, that embody movement goals and ideals, and that sometimes thwart movements from accomplishing their original purposes. His classic 1966 Social Forces paper with Roberta Ash laid the groundwork for a broader theory of social movement organizations, Continue reading

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Filed under Essay Dialogues, Organizational Theory and Social Movements