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Colleges and universities in the United States are common sites of social movement activism, yet we know little about the conditions under which campus-based movements are…
Colleges and universities in the United States are common sites of social movement activism, yet we know little about the conditions under which campus-based movements are likely to meet with success or failure. In this study, I develop the concept of educational opportunity structures, and I highlight several dimensions of colleges and universities' educational opportunity structures – specifically, schools' statuses as public or private, secular or religious, highly or lowly ranked, and more or less wealthy – that can affect the outcomes of campus-based movements. Analyzing a religious freedom movement at Vanderbilt University, which mobilized from 2010 to 2012 to demand the ability of religious student organizations to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and religious belief, I argue that Vanderbilt's status as a private, secular, elite, and wealthy university ensured that conservative Christian activism at that school was highly unlikely to succeed. The findings hold important theoretical implications for the burgeoning literature on student activism.
As a site of contestation among job seekers, workers, and managers, the bureaucratic workplace both reproduces and erodes occupational race segregation and racial status…
As a site of contestation among job seekers, workers, and managers, the bureaucratic workplace both reproduces and erodes occupational race segregation and racial status hierarchies. Much sociological research has examined the reproduction of racial inequality at work; however, little research has examined how desegregationist forces, including civil rights movement values, enter and permeate bureaucratic workplaces into the broader polity. Our purpose in this chapter is to introduce and typologize what we refer to as “occupational activism,” defined as socially transformative individual and collective action that is conducted and realized through an occupational role or occupational community. We empirically induce and present a typology from our study of the half-century-long, post-mobilization occupational careers of over 60 veterans of the nonviolent Nashville civil rights movement of the early 1960s. The fourfold typology of occupational activism is framed in the “new” sociology of work, which emphasizes the role of worker agency and activism in determining worker life chances, and in the “varieties of activism” perspective, which treats the typology as a coherent regime of activist roles in the dialogical diffusion of civil rights movement values into, within, and out of workplaces. We conclude with a research agenda on how bureaucratic workplaces nurture and stymie occupational activism as a racially desegregationist force at work and in the broader polity.
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…
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.
While it is generally well known that nonviolent collective action was widely deployed in the US southern civil rights movement, there is still much that we do not know…
While it is generally well known that nonviolent collective action was widely deployed in the US southern civil rights movement, there is still much that we do not know about how that came to be. Drawing on primary data that consist of detailed semistructured interviews with members of the Nashville nonviolent movement during the late 1950s and 1960s, we contribute unique insights about how the nonviolent repertoire was diffused into one movement current that became integral to moving the wider southern movement. Innovating with the concept of serially linked movement schools – locations where the deeply intense work took place, the didactic and dialogical labor of analyzing, experimenting, creatively translating, and resocializing human agents in preparation for dangerous performance – we follow the biographical paths of carriers of the nonviolent Gandhian repertoire as it was learned, debated, transformed, and carried from India to the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and Howard University to Nashville (TN) and then into multiple movement campaigns across the South. Members of the Nashville movement core cadre – products of the Nashville movement workshop schools – were especially important because they served as bridging leaders by serially linking schools and collective action campaigns. In this way, they played critical roles in bridging structural holes (places where the movement had yet to be successfully established) and were central to diffusing the movement throughout the South. Our theoretical and empirical approach contributes to the development of the dialogical perspective on movement diffusion generally and to knowledge about how the nonviolent repertoire became integral to the US civil rights movement in particular.
Mary Bernstein is Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut. She has published numerous articles in the fields of social movements, identity, sexualities, gender, and law and is coeditor of three books. Recent articles include “What Are You? Explaining Identity as a Goal of the Multiracial Hapa Movement,” “Identity Politics,” and “Culture, Power, and Institutions: A Multi-Institutional Politics Approach to Social Movements” (coauthored with Elizabeth Armstrong) which won the Outstanding Article Award from the American Sociological Association Section on Collective Behavior and Social Movements (2009).