What can we learn when we listen closely to and engage in dialogue with social movement activists?
Social Movements and Activism in the USA addresses this question for a group of progressive activists in Hartford, Connecticut, who do community, labor, feminist, gay and lesbian, peace, and anti-racist organizing. Situated within the twenty-first-century landscape of post-industrialism and neo-liberalism and drawing on oral histories, the book argues for a dialogic and integrative approach to social movement activism. The dialogue between scholar and activist captures the interpretive nature of activists' identity, the variable ways activists decide on strategies and goals, the external constraints on activism, and the creative ways activists manoeuvre around these constraints. This dialogic approach makes the book accessible and useful to students, scholars, and activists alike. The integrative nature of the text refers to its theoretical approach. Rather than advancing a new theory of social movements, it uses existing approaches as a tool kit to examine the what, how, who, and why of social movement activism.
Table of Contents
1. Scholars and Activists in Dialogue 2. Theory and Activism 3. The Context of Hartford Progressive Activism 4. What Activists Do: Developing Strategies, Conceptualizing Goals, Exploiting Opportunities 5. What Activists Do: Gathering Resources, Forming Organizations 6. What Makes Them Do It: Recruitment and Commitment to Social Movements 7. What Makes Them Tired: Activist Burnout And Managing an Activist Life 8. Who They Are: Collective Identity And Oppositional Consciousness 9. Rethinking Activists’ Questions And Scholars’ Answers
Stephen Valocchi is Professor of Sociology at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He is the author of Queer Studies: An Interdisciplinary Reader (with Robert C. Corber), and has also written numerous essays on progressive social movements in the United States, which have appeared in Mobilization, Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, and Social Problems.
'Can social movement scholars and activists engage in a fruitful dialogue? In this engaging volume, Stephen Vallocchi convincingly argues that, yes they can. And if they learn to carefully listen to each other they would help suggest progressive solutions to the many social and political problems of our societies.' – Prof. Dr. Donatella della Porta, Department of Political and Social Sciences, European University Institute, Italy
'A splendid case study of social movement actors and activist organizations which contributes mightily not only to our understanding of social change and conditions in Hartford, CT, but, even more significantly, to the broader issues and tensions in social movement practices and theory. A powerful book! We can’t wait to adopt it in our courses in social theory, community organizing, and social movements.' – Professor Robert Fisher and Associate Professor Louise Simmons, University of Connecticut, USA
'In this book, Stephen Valocchi draws from stories of activists in the labor, peace, global justice, feminist, lesbian and gay, immigrants rights, and anti-violence movements to demonstrate how, on the one hand, activists might benefit from the scholarship on social movements and, on the other, how theories of social movements would be enriched by acknowledging the lived experiences of activists. This illuminating encounter between concepts and stories makes for a very engaging text, which undoubtedly will be widely used in social movement courses.' – Verta Taylor, Professor of Sociology, at the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
'...accessible to academics and activists alike. The result, an engaging encounter between academic understanding of social movements and knowledge gained from practical community struggles, fills an important gap in the literature on social movements by opening a dialogue between scholars and activists. Highly recommended.' – Choice, August 2010