Posts Tagged ‘social movements’
While attending a Burning Man-related event in NYC during the mid-2000s, I ran into a group of well-dressed “advocates” who satirically called themselves “Billionaires for Bush (or Gore).” Using personas like Ivy League Legacy (aka Melody Bales) and Phil T. Rich (Andrew Boyd), this troupe has deployed humor, irony, and satire to underscore the weakening of democracy by moneyed interests and the resultant growing inequality. According to the NYT, this group was one of many that were under surveillance by the New York Police Department (NYPD) during the months leading up to the the 2004 Republican National Convention in NYC.
Rutgers anthropologist Angelique Haugerud‘s (2013) No Billionaire Left Behind: Satirical Activism in America delves into this irrepressible and well-organized social movement group. The book kicks off slowly, with the obligatory carnival analysis that characterizes many academic studies of festivals and performance. Nonetheless, the book excels in contextualizing larger social issues, including the erosion of American safety net policies and the ascendency of the financial sector. Using interviews and observations, Haugerud reveals how this social movement group has secured an audience and media presence: building up a recognizable brand (“Billionaires for X” – or in the case of Mitt Romney, “Multi-Millionaires for Romney”), storytelling to rally the troops around co-optations of various political candidates’ messages, hustling for resources (i.e., bartering a canoe for 100 tuxedos to dress “Billionaires”), and using humor and impression management to deflect public stereotyping of demonstrators as militant, “angry,” and “smelly.” This book neatly captures the challenge of how to get social movement messages out via corporate media, which for the most part, have eschewed careful analysis of complex phenomena, while sidestepping barriers to free assembly and free speech. In addition, the book depicts the difficulties of coordinating local chapters whose members may have their own ideas about acceptable practices and messaging that could muddy the social movement brand.
Although Haugerud adopted the name of Billionaire persona, she didn’t fully immerse in Billionaire character, opting for a primary identity as a resident anthropologist who overtly took notes while at meetings and events. How she negotiated access isn’t entirely clear, although the troupe seemed to appreciate being the focus of an anthropological study. In all, this book offers a vivid depiction of the strategy and tactics of a contemporary social movement. Those who are involved in social movements will find the practices depicted useful for expanding the organizing toolkit.
For those of you looking for a reason to head to Cuba and present your research, here’s your chance.
“Constructing Alternatives: How can we organize for alternative social, economic, and ecological balance?”
5th annual Latin American and European Meeting on Organization Studies, Havana, Cuba, April 2-5, 2014
“…the purpose of this 5th LAEMOS Colloquium is to share empirical and theoretical research on the dynamics of development, resistance, and innovation with the aim to promote alternative forms of organization in Latin American and European societies…Under the general theme of the meeting, the aim is to collect and connect a broad variety of studies, narratives and discourses on initiatives for alternative forms of development and innovation. We also welcome studies and reflections about the redefinition of boundaries, collaboration, and conflict among government, business, and civil society, in shaping social change, organizational (re-)configuration, and developmental action…
In particular, this is a Call for Papers for the following prospective sub-themes (but not limited to them):
The corporatization of politics and the politicization of corporations
The political economy of organizations
Sustainable and unsustainable tales of sustainability and social development
Alternative roles and forms of managerial action
Alternative spaces: communities, cities as models of collective agency
Transnational networks for protest and for change
Digital worlds, online forms of organization and action
Papers taking an interdisciplinary perspective on dynamics of change, innovation, power and resistance are particularly encouraged. Theoretical and empirical papers looking at alternative forms of social, economic, and ecological development from an organizational perspective are also of special interest. They may include studies that link micro level case analysis to macro level institutional and global forces, that investigate processes as well as structures, and that take a historical and contextual approach….
Subtheme Proposal: July 31, 2013
Abstract submission (1,000 words): 15 November, 2013
Notification of acceptance: 15 December, 2013
Submission of full paper (6,000 words): 5 March, 2014
You are welcome to submit a subtheme proposal at laemos2014 [at] gmail.com. For more information about the conference and frequent updates please check www.laemos.com.”
Full cfp available here.
For those of us who wish to consider the implications of recent worldwide events, three of anthropologist David Graeber‘s books offer a deeper understanding of relatively unfamiliar organizing practices and their relationship with democracy:
(1) Direct Action: An Ethnography (2009, AK Press)
(3) The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement (2013, Random House)
Fabio’s previous posts covered one of Graeber’s most famous books Debt. For those of us who teach and practice orgtheory, Graeber’s work on direct action and criticisms of bureaucracy offer much-needed insight into how collectivities can gel in taking action. In particular, his in-depth account of how groups make decisions by consensus offers rich examples that can help students and practitioners understand the steps involved, as well as the pitfalls and benefits of these alternatives to topdown orders. (Other examples in the research literature include Francesca Polletta’s research on SDS and my own work on Burning Man – see chapter 3 of Enabling Creative Chaos: The Organization Behind the Burning Man Event).
Yesterday’s WSJ featured an interesting (gated) front page article on growing support among some evangelical congregations for extending immigration rights to undocumented immigrants. Drawing on the Bible to justify “welcoming the stranger,” leaders have urged outreach efforts and political mobilization for overhauling immigration reform, even though these activities may alienate some congregants and politicians. According to the WSJ, one opposing politician has countered supporters’ assertions with the claim that “The Bible contains numerous passages that do not necessarily support amnesty and instead support the rule of law. The Scriptures clearly indicate that God charges civil authorities with preserving order, protecting citizens and punishing wrongdoers.” Clearly, groups and individuals are tapping logics of religion and the state to offer various rationales for the status quo versus change.
Sociologist Grace Yukich has conducted research on a similar movement for immigration rights among Catholic groups. Her forthcoming book One Family Under God: Religion and Immigration Politics in the New Sanctuary Movement (Oxford) examines how supporters simultaneously engage with a larger social movement at the grassroots level and reshape the composition of their flock. Check out more about Yukich’s work via her blog posts on Mobilizing Ideas and The Immanent Frame.
Folks, we’re in for a real treat. UPitt sociologist Kathleen Blee will be guest blogging here at orgtheory! Her recently published book Democracy in the Making: How Activist Groups Form (2012, Oxford) won the 2012 ARNOVA Outstanding Book in Nonprofit and Voluntary Action Research Award. You can read more about the ARNOVA Book Award committee’s take on the book’s contributions here.
Kathy also has numerous publications, which includes research about members’ involvement in organized hate movements. We’re looking forward to reading more about her thoughts on the research process and her findings.
Let’s give Kathy a warm welcome!