The contestation of meaning has become a key locus of social movement research, pointing to debates as to how futures can be envisaged. But set against the recent 'subjective turn' in this scholarship, how more precisely is such meaning elaborated and peoples' subjectivities expressed?
From Zuccotti Park to St Paul's Cathedral, from Tahrir Square to the Presidential Palace in Brasilia, dissatisfaction with party politics and a corrosive sense of powerlessness have placed ever greater emphasis on social movements to propose new futures. But how are these futures created and what is the role of the subject within wider processes of collective mobilisation? This panel seeks to foreground how political subjectivity is created and contested, thus calling into question how we envisage the worlds in which we want to live. The contestation of such meaning has become one of the most important areas within social movement research, but if the collective provides a broader context characterised by hybrid agreements, compromises, and mediations, how more precisely is such meaning elaborated and peoples' subjectivities expressed? Marc Edelman (2002) has argued that new social movement theory, and by extension the approach of scholars who identify a 'subjective turn' in social movement studies (Razsa 2015), has "helped reproduce the fragmentation of the popular classes sought by the state and the market". But does such a focus on the subject necessarily render the collective less robust or meaningful? In addition to this broader provocation, questions that the panel seeks to raise include: how are subjectivity and the elaboration of meaning more precisely connected? What is the role of the person in mediating temporal frames of utopia? What is the potential of an analysis that foregrounds dimensions of ethical self-cultivation within the wider collective?