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Accepted Paper:

What’s activism anyway? Fieldnotes of resisting activist identities while carrying out institutional change work.  
Marina P. Gross (Dopamine Chasers, LLC)

Paper Short Abstract:

This field report presents evidence that the pressure of “activist” identity creates barriers of entry to resistance work. I connect this resistance to perceived lack of power and general fear-informed state (tenants of white supremacy culture) and present creative examples of working around it.

Paper Abstract:

When are people ready to take on an identity? Whom is activism for? These are some of the leading questions I explore in the context of three (3) different educational institutions across the U.S.A.: “Prestigious” in the mid West, “Southern” in Southern U.S., and “Non-Profit” in the U.S. West.

Rather than an academic exploration, I present real-life evidence that everyday resistance work has a potential to inspire people to work towards chance when employing terms that decenter activist identity. The intellectualization of “activism” stemming from academic theory may lead to a barrier of entry to meaningful change work; likely because activist ideology is understood to have prerequisites, such as advanced knowledge, already established proficiency, and at times networked connection.

Evidence implies that people may purposefully deny themselves and others the label of “activism” due to fear being perceived as radical and leftist (both considered inflammatory terms in many U.S. American workplaces). Instead, workers find creative ways to work around ideology by simplifying, re-owning power, and focusing on local policy, at times away from executive leadership eyes while staying within institutional mission.

I connect the resulting resistance to labeling advocacy as “activist” to a perceived lack of power and general fear-informed state of being punished for radical ideology (tenants of white supremacy culture). These exploratory findings have implications for both academic theory on activist ideology and formation as well as on movement organizing that relies on inviting people into daily action.

Panel P238
Becoming/ being an activist: reflections on a key political subjectivity of late capitalism
  Session 2 Friday 26 July, 2024, -