Putting Social Movements in Their Place: Social Movement Theory and the Spatial Mediation of Nonviolent Resistance Terrains
This book is concerned with the dynamics of collective action and seeks to explain and understand the experiences of the Baliapal and Chipko movements within the context of social movement theory. However, it is my contention that contemporary theories of collective action are seriously lacking in explanatory power, because they fail to address adequately the mediation of social movement agency by place. As Agnew ( 1987) notes, although most popular political movements (such as regionalist and separatist movements) have their origin in specific places or regions, research problems in political sociology have never been clearly associated with a place perspective. This has critical implications for our understanding of social movements, for, as my analysis of the Baliapal and Chipko movements shows, the geographical concept of place provides us with crucial insights into at least three aspects of social movement experience. First, the concept of place informs us about why social movements occur where they do and the context within which movement agency interpellates the social structure. Second, the concept of place informs us about the nature of specific movements, since the particularities of place inform and affect the character, dynamics and outcomes of movement agency. Finally, a research paradigm that is sensitive to place provides the means of understanding the spirit of movement agency, that which inspires and motivates people, the articulation of the experiences of everyday life.
In order to expose the lacunae within social movement theories, I first present an overview of contemporary approaches to social movement