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Social Movements and Bridge Building: Religious and Sexual Identity Conflicts

Intersectionality and Social Change

ISBN: 978-1-78441-106-0, eISBN: 978-1-78441-105-3

Publication date: 20 September 2014


Social movement scholars have increasingly drawn attention to the process of “bridge building” in social movements – that is, the process by which activists attempt to resolve conflicts stemming from different collective identities. However, most scholars assume that social movements primarily attempt to resolve tensions among activists themselves, and thus that bridge building is a means to other ends rather than a primary goal of social movement activism. In this chapter, I challenge these assumptions through a case study of a “bridging organization” known as Bridge Builders, which sought as its primary goal to “bridge the gap between the LGBT and Christian communities” at a Christian university in Nashville, Tennessee. I highlight the mechanisms by which Bridge Builders attempted to facilitate bridge building at the university, and I argue that Bridge Builders succeeded in bridging (a) disparate institutional identities at their university, (b) “structural holes” between LGBT- and religious-identified groups at their university, and (c) oppositional personal identities among organizational members. As I discuss in the conclusion, the case of Bridge Builders has implications for literatures on bridge building in social movements, cultural and biographical consequences of social movements, and social movement strategy.




This chapter was presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, August 2013, New York, NY. The author thanks Larry Isaac, Shaul Kelner, Quan Mai, Mariano Sana, the editor, and anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this chapter.


Coley, J.S. (2014), "Social Movements and Bridge Building: Religious and Sexual Identity Conflicts", Intersectionality and Social Change (Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, Vol. 37), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 125-151.



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