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Ideology, Organization, and Biography: The Cultural Construction of Identity Talk among Progressive Activists in Hartford, Connecticut

Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1318-1, eISBN: 978-1-84950-418-8

ISSN: 0163-786X

Publication date: 3 July 2007

Abstract

This paper examines the identity talk of 30 activists from Hartford, Connecticut who work in the overlapping areas of labor, women's rights, queer organizing, anti-racism, community organizing, anti-globalization, and peace. Rather than seeing this talk as strictly a function of the collective action context, this identity talk is analyzed in terms of the multiple social influences that produce it. According to this model, activist identity can be shaped by ideologies derived from social movement culture, biographical experiences with racial, class, gender, and sexuality-based marginalization, and the cultural resources from both pre-existing and movement-based organizations. The analysis of open-ended interviews with activists reveals three somewhat distinct kinds of identity talk: ideological talk derived from either the 1960s white Left or from black nationalist traditions; biographical talk that highlights either a single dimension or multiple dimensions of marginality; organizational talk that references the mission, constituency, or organizing philosophy of the social movement organization of the activist as her/his impetus for activism. I also find that these differences in identity talk are associated with different patterns of social movement participation. This analysis challenges social movement scholars to study identity talk as a creative cultural accomplishment.

Citation

Valocchi, S. (2007), "Ideology, Organization, and Biography: The Cultural Construction of Identity Talk among Progressive Activists in Hartford, Connecticut", Coy, P.G. (Ed.) Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change (Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, Vol. 27), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 189-217. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0163-786X(06)27007-1

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited