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Those interested in studying the relationship between law and social movements have a wide variety of theoretical and empirical research to draw on, from both social…
Those interested in studying the relationship between law and social movements have a wide variety of theoretical and empirical research to draw on, from both social movement theory and legal studies. Yet these disparate studies of law and social movements rarely engage with each other. In this chapter, we review current developments in research on law and social movements and summarize the chapters in this special issue. These chapters offer insight into the multivalent nature of law for social movements, the factors shaping movements’ strategic engagements with the legal system, the relationship between law and identity for social movement activists, and the complex role that cause lawyers play in social movement processes and dynamics.
As the demand for affordable legal services grows, law schools and the legal profession struggle to respond. By examining lessons from successful social movements in the…
As the demand for affordable legal services grows, law schools and the legal profession struggle to respond. By examining lessons from successful social movements in the last century, Cause Lawyering and Social Movements: Can Solo and Small Firm Practitioners anchor Social Movements looks at the Law School Consortium Project and its potential to participate in and anchor the social movements of our time. The collaboration of the law schools, networks of solo and small firm attorneys and activists at the local, regional and national level provide key elements for powerful change given the technological developments of the 21st century.
The nexus where law, social movements, and organizations meet demands further explication. This research adds to our understandings of these dynamics by examining the case…
The nexus where law, social movements, and organizations meet demands further explication. This research adds to our understandings of these dynamics by examining the case of the central Appalachian anti-strip mining movement. After developing a social network technique to analyze over thirty years of newspapers, we find a period of reduced movement activity following the passage of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. Conversely, we observe a reinvigoration of the movement following the passage of the Clean Air Amendments of 1990 and the perverse incentives they created for mountaintop removal mining. Finally, we see that joint participation in lawsuits is a primary tie that binds these groups together.
Introducing the concept of intra-social movement backlash this chapter explores the “legacy phase” of legal action focusing on conflicts and debates within a social…
Introducing the concept of intra-social movement backlash this chapter explores the “legacy phase” of legal action focusing on conflicts and debates within a social movement that has mobilized. Using a legal mobilization framework attuned to the recursive relationship between rights, rights-claiming activities, and collective identity, the chapter analyzes the mixed legacies of movement strategic litigation. Empirically, the chapter offers two illustrative case studies of intra-movement backlash in the women's and the disability rights movements in Canada. The findings suggest that while this form of backlash can have negative, disempowering effects, it also offers opportunities to challenge hegemonic structures within a social movement and re-imagine collective identities.
The sociological and socio-legal literatures on social movements have identified three main types of “legal framing” in contemporary social movement discourse: collective rights framing, individual rights framing, and nationalistic legal framing. However, it is unclear from the current research how movement actors decide which of these framing strategies to use, under what circumstances, and to what effect. In this article, I offer a model for future empirical research on legal framing, which (1) distinguishes legal framing by its argumentative structure, ideological content, and remedy; and (2) analyzes how a social movement’s internal culture and institutional environment constrain the symbolic utility of particular legal frames and shape the movement’s legal framing strategy. I argue that the alternative approach offered here will help theorize how social movements strike a balance between the institutional pressure to reproduce dominant ideologies and the internal pressure to reform those ideologies. This perspective thus helps build socio-legal theory on the relationship between legal framing and social subordination, and on the conditions under which movements will be able to inflect legal language with insurgent social movement values.
As social movements engage in transnational legal processes, they have articulated innovative rights claims outside the nation-state frame. This chapter analyzes emerging…
As social movements engage in transnational legal processes, they have articulated innovative rights claims outside the nation-state frame. This chapter analyzes emerging practices of legal mobilization in response to global governance through a case study of the “right to food sovereignty.” The claim of food sovereignty has been mobilized transnationally by small-scale food producers, food-chain workers, and the food insecure to oppose the liberalization of food and agriculture. The author analyzes the formation of this claim in relation to the rise of a “network imaginary” of global governance. By drawing on ethnographic research, the author shows how activists have internalized this imaginary within their claims and practices of legal mobilization. In doing so, the author argues, transnational food sovereignty activists co-constitute global food governance from below. Ultimately, the development of these practices in response to shifting forms of transnational legality reflects the enduring, mutually constitutive relationship between law and social movements on a global scale.
This chapter considers how lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activists in Namibia and South Africa appropriate discourses of decolonization associated with…
This chapter considers how lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activists in Namibia and South Africa appropriate discourses of decolonization associated with African national liberation movements. I examine the legal, cultural, and political possibilities associated with LGBT activists’ framing of law reform as a decolonization project. LGBT activists identified laws governing gender and sexual nonconformity as in particular need of reform. Using data from daily ethnographic observation of LGBT movement organizations, in-depth qualitative interviews with LGBT activists, and newspaper articles about political homophobia, I elucidate how Namibian and South African LGBT activists conceptualize movement challenges to antigay laws as decolonization.
The present paper attempts to map the discursive relations between conflict and settlement as reflected in the realms of law and mediation during the second half of the…
The present paper attempts to map the discursive relations between conflict and settlement as reflected in the realms of law and mediation during the second half of the 20th century, offering a 21st century model to combine the mediation drive to settle through reaching inter-subjective transformation with the legal drive to escalate and promote social conflict. Contemporary mediation, according to this model, should involve on the one hand “negotiating for justice,” according to the familiar models of problem solving and transformation, and on the other hand “fighting for law”: acknowledging the self-referential and ideological quality of conflicts, while emphasizing the pragmatic need to end them through an interpretive public act that involves value judgments.
This chapter presents a case study of the lesbian and gay rights movement following the Supreme Court's decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, which was a critical defeat in the…
This chapter presents a case study of the lesbian and gay rights movement following the Supreme Court's decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, which was a critical defeat in the campaign for sodomy repeal. Activists responded with a dramatic wave of mobilization by staging protests, successful appeals for organizational donations, building coalitions, and shifting institutional venues. This case provides a paradox for the dominant perspectives within social movement theory and legal mobilization literature, which often traces mobilization back to the expansion of political opportunities. The defeat in Bowers signaled a closing of political opportunities for activists. Drawing from a growing body of literature on political threats and heeding the call to specify the mechanisms of movement dynamics, I show how the defeat in Bowers was translated into proactive mobilization.