Patterns of Protest: Trajectories of Participation in Social Movements

Patterns of Protest: Trajectories of Participation in Social Movements

Patterns of Protest: Trajectories of Participation in Social Movements

Patterns of Protest: Trajectories of Participation in Social Movements

Synopsis

Asked to name an activist, many people think of someone like Cesar Chavez or Rosa Parks- someone uniquely and passionately devoted to a cause. Yet, two-thirds of Americans report having belonged to a social movement, attended a protest, or engaged in some form of contentious political activity. Activism, in other words, is something that the vast majority of people engage in. This book examines these more common experiences to ask how and when people choose to engage with political causes.

Corrigall-Brown reveals how individual characteristics and life experiences impact the pathway of participation, illustrating that the context and period in which a person engages are critical. This is the real picture of activism, one in which many people engage, in a multitude of ways and with varying degrees of continuity. This book challenges the current conceptualization of activism and pushes us to more systematically examine the varying ways that individuals participate in contentious politics over their lifetimes.

Excerpt

If it is true, as Amos Oz said, that “activism is a way of life,” how do people come to embrace this lifestyle? Dorothy typifies one pathway to participation. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, and at the age of ten, she moved with her family to a tenement flat on Chicago’s South Side when her father lost his job. After graduating from high school, she received a scholarship to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she became politically radicalized. After two turbulent years on campus, Dorothy dropped out and moved back to New York. She settled on the Lower East Side and took a job as a journalist for a socialist newspaper. During this period, she spent many weekends protesting against war and campaigning for women’s rights. While attending one such rally outside the White House, she was arrested and went on a hunger strike with her fellow activists in prison until they were released. When her daughter was born ten years later, Dorothy began an intense period of spiritual awakening, which ultimately led her to embrace Catholicism. Her new involvement with the Catholic Church inspired her to write for Catholic publications and to work for social justice through her congregation. Her support for the peace movement remained strong and she also became actively involved in programs to feed and house the homeless. Throughout her life, Dorothy stayed fully committed to these causes—she was last arrested only five years before her death at the age of 75 for taking part in a picket line in support of striking workers.

Dolores also came to embrace activism as a way of life. She was born in New Mexico and raised in California by a single mother. Inspired by her politically active family, especially her grandfather, Dolores became engaged in . . .

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