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Identity Work in Social Movements

Identity Work in Social Movements

Jo Reger
Daniel J. Myers
Rachel L. Einwohner
Volume: 30
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Identity Work in Social Movements
    Book Description:

    Movements for social change are by their nature oppositional, as are those who join change movements. This volume offers new scholarship that explores how people negotiate identity within social movements and examines issues of diversity and uniformity among social movement participants. Contributors: Mary Bernstein, Kimberly B. Dugan, Elizabeth Kaminski, Susan Munkres, Kevin Neuhouser, Benita Roth, Silke Roth, Todd Schroer, Verta Taylor, Jane Ward._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6641-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Identity Work, Sameness, and Difference in Social Movements
    (pp. 1-18)
    Rachel L. Einwohner, Jo Reger and Daniel J. Myers

    Enmeshed in a fight against a local antigay ballot proposal in Cincinnati, Ohio, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered coalition members find their unity undercut by internal debates over strategies of assimilation versus more radical direct action. Using organizational and ideological strategies, the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) finds ways to create a central identity, overcoming the racial, ethnic, and class issues that fragment other U.S. women’s groups. In Brazil, poor women carefully negotiate gender identity in their efforts to provide for themselves and their families and avoid repression for their activism. Drag queens performing in a club in Key...

  5. Part I. Doing Identity Work

    • 1 Just Like You: The Dimensions of Identity Presentations in an Antigay Contested Context
      (pp. 21-46)
      Kimberly B. Dugan

      The Christian Right has long made it its business to fight against gay rights. Because of that reality, the gay, lesbian, and bisexual movement and the Christian Right lock into conflict with one another (Zald and Useem 1987; Meyer and Staggenborg 1996) in an “opposing movement” contest (Bernstein 1995, 1; see also 1997). When one side pursues an issue or cause, the other commonly follows by either countering or initiating a separate but derivative offensive move (see also Dugan 2004; Dugan 2005). Campaigns for social change that require the public’s support are fertile ground for opposing movements that compete over...

    • 2 “We’re Not Just Lip-synching Up Here”: Music and Collective Identity in Drag Performances
      (pp. 47-76)
      Elizabeth Kaminski and Verta Taylor

      Social movement scholars have demonstrated that the construction of a collective identity among participants is essential to the mobilization and success of such social movements as feminism (Roth 2000; Rupp and Taylor 1999), peace activism (Hunt and Benford 1994), and gay and lesbian movements (Taylor and Whittier 1992; Valocchi 1999). Taylor and Whittier define collective identity as a “shared definition of a group” or a “sense of ‘we’ ” (1992, 105, 110) and suggest that it entails an ongoing process of negotiating boundaries between insiders and outsiders. Numerous scholars have documented the ways in which movement participants establish such boundaries...

    • 3 Technical Advances in Communication: The Example of White Racialist “Love Groups” and “White Civil Rights Organizations”
      (pp. 77-100)
      Todd Schroer

      One of the hardest and most necessary tasks for any social movement is image control. The public’s perception of movement organizations and their members is vital to any movement’s ability to attract new members, raise funds, and achieve movement goals, among other things. In general, the more positive an image that a movement and its members have in the public’s view, the easier it is for organizations within the movement to succeed. With a negative public image, the ability of movement organizations to do even the most mundane of tasks becomes increasingly difficult. Thus, trying to control or influence how...

    • 4 Drawing Identity Boundaries: The Creation of Contemporary Feminism
      (pp. 101-120)
      Jo Reger

      The demise of American feminism has been declared so many times that Jennifer Pozner (2003) labels these pronouncements a part of the “False Feminist Death Syndrome.”¹ In response, scholars and activists argue that feminism faces a backlash (Faludi 1991), has submerged into institutions (Katzensten 1990; Spalter-Roth and Schreiber 1995), or now is in a third wave, different from earlier forms of activism (Baumgartner and Richards 2000; Heywood and Drake 1997; see also Bhavnani et al. 1998; Zita 1997). Studies of contemporary feminism document a range of feminist behaviors, ideologies, and activism, from the punk-based Riot Grrrl movement of the Northwest...

    • 5 Passing as Strategic Identity Work in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
      (pp. 121-140)
      Rachel L. Einwohner

      Much of the extant literature on identity and social movements highlights the construction of identity during the course of collective action (Fantasia 1988; Melucci 1989; Reger 2002; Taylor and Whittier 1992, 1995; Whittier 1995). According to this research, the adoption of a new activist identity—or the affirmation of an existing one—is an important component of protest activity. Put another way, because many scholars argue that collective action is the enactment of identity (Calhoun 1994; Neuhouser 1998), people participate in protest partly because doing so matches with their sense of who and what they are (see also Loeb 1994)....

    • 6 I Am the Man and Woman in This House: Brazilian Jeito and the Strategic Framing of Motherhood in a Poor, Urban Community
      (pp. 141-164)
      Kevin Neuhouser

      Collective identities are essential for successful mobilization, yet their creation, maintenance, and deployment are problematic. Among many potential difficulties, activists frequently struggle with whether to frame their collective identity as similar to or different from those of movement audiences, such as potential allies and decision makers (Bernstein 1997). An identity deployment strategy that works with one audience may jeopardize success with another. Activists, then, often juggle multiple strategies as they interact with various audiences (Gamson 2004). To complicate matters further, the identity choices available to activists are constrained by gender—their own and that of their audiences. This is especially...

  6. Part II. Working through Identities

    • 7 Ally Identity: The Politically Gay
      (pp. 167-188)
      Daniel J. Myers

      Social movement scholars have come a long way in their attempts to incorporate the social psychology of identities into theoretical understandings of activism. Work on collective identity, addressing the dynamics of collective identity construction and the processes that attach individuals to movements, has expanded over the past two decades (see for example, Stryker, Owens, and White 2000; Melucci 1985; Johnston, Laraña, and Gusfield 1994). In particular, concepts of boundary construction, recruitment, self-verification via activism, and movement framing have brought together social psychology with the social movement literature. In the present volume, the contributors further explore the roles of identities by...

    • 8 Being “Sisters” to Salvadoran Peasants: Deep Identification and Its Limitations
      (pp. 189-212)
      Susan Munkres

      The strong emotions and sense of solidarity expressed in the above quote might come as a surprise to those who study movements of privileged people who work on behalf of others far less advantaged. When scholars examine such alliance movements, they often emphasize a range of difficulties they see as inherent in the relationship between privileged “outsiders” and the disenfranchised people who typically make up the bulk of a liberation movement. What’s more, many believe that privileged people face a unique set of problemsas privileged peoplesimply in building movements. With neither a history of resistance nor their own...

    • 9 Dealing with Diversity: The Coalition of Labor Union Women
      (pp. 213-232)
      Silke Roth

      Mobilizing broad and diverse constituencies represents a challenge for social movements. In particular, the literature on the women’s movement is full of accounts of the challenges that cross-class and cross-race alliances face (see the collections by Bookman and Morgen 1988; Naples 1998; Ryan 2001). As long as institutionalized antiracist practices are absent from women’s movement organizations, there is a risk that a gap will develop between abstract moral commitment to inclusiveness and concrete actions to challenge racism and practice equality (Ferree and Hess 2000, 124). Thus, the pursuit of social justice requires effective coalitions across difference (Bystydzienski and Schacht 2001)....

    • 10 Diversity Discourse and Multi-identity Work in Lesbian and Gay Organizations
      (pp. 233-256)
      Jane Ward

      Feminist intersectional theory focuses on the way the multiplicative nature of structural inequalities affects both individual and group knowledge and identities (Baca Zinn and Dill 1996; Collins 1996; Lugones 1990). Because feminist intersectional theory developed largely in response to sexism in the civil rights movement and racism in the feminist movement, a critique of “single-identity” social movements was also central to its approach (Combahee Collective 1983; hooks 1981; King 1988; Robnett 1996). Feminist intersectional theory argues that single-identity movements are inevitably ineffective because they exclude constituents and support what Patricia Hill Collins (1998) refers to as the “matrix of domination”...

    • 11 The Reconstruction of Collective Identity in the Emergence of U.S. White Women’s Liberation
      (pp. 257-276)
      Benita Roth

      Renewed feminist movements were part of the post–World War II cycle of protest in the United States and worldwide. In the United States, feminist movements had, broadly speaking, two social bases: (1) networks of professional women brought together by government and liberal institutions, which formed membership organizations such as the National Organization for Women (NOW); and (2) radical women who were situated in oppositional communities engaged in challenging racial inequalities and the Vietnam War (Buechler 1990; Carden 1974; Freeman 1973, 1975; Hole and Levine 1971; Marx Ferree and Hess 1985, 1994, 2000; Roth 2004). In the latter case, feminist...

  7. Afterword: The Analytic Dimensions of Identity: A Political Identity Framework
    (pp. 277-302)
    Mary Bernstein

    This edited collection builds on and provides exciting extensions of the political identity framework that I introduced in my article “Celebration and Suppression: The Strategic Uses of Identity by the Lesbian and Gay Movement” (Bernstein 1997). In “Celebration and Suppression” (Bernstein 1997), I argued that what social movement theorists termed “identity movements” were defined as much by the goals they seek and the strategies they use as by the fact that they are based on a shared characteristic, such as ethnicity or sex. Multiple use of the term identity movements led to substantial theoretical confusion. I challenged the commonplace characterization...

  8. Contributors
    (pp. 303-308)
  9. Index
    (pp. 309-317)