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Social Protest and Its Discontents

A System Justification Perspective

Vivienne Badaan, John T. Jost, Danny Osborne, Chris G. Sibley, Joaquín Ungaretti, Edgardo Etchezahar and Erin P. Hennes

Psychological factors that encourage—as well as discourage— participation in social protest are often overlooked in the social sciences. In this article, we draw together recent contributions to the understanding of the social and psychological bases of political action and inaction from the perspective of system justification theory. This perspective, which builds on theory and research on the “belief in a just world,” contends that—because of underlying epistemic, existential, and relational needs to reduce uncertainty, threat, and social discord—people are motivated (to varying degrees, as a function of personality and context) to defend, bolster, and justify the legitimacy of the social, political, and economic systems on which they depend. We review evidence that, alongside political conservatism and religiosity, system justification helps to explain resistance and acquiescence to the status quo in sociopolitical contexts as diverse as Lebanon, New Zealand, Argentina, and the United States.

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Defying Death

Women's Experience of the Holodomor, 1932–1933

Oksana Kis

Although the tragedy of the Holodomor (the Great Famine) of 1932 and 1933 figures prominently in public discourse and historical scholarship in Ukraine today, its gender dimension has not yet been examined. This article is based on an analysis of personal narratives of female survivors of the Holodomor, collected and published in Ukraine since the 1990s until now. It focuses on the peculiarities of women's experience of the Holodomor and explores women's strategies of resistance and survival in the harsh circumstances of genocide. It exposes a spectrum of women's agency at the grassroots and illuminates controversies around women's ways of coping with starvation. The article also discusses the methodological challenges and ethical issues faced by a Ukrainian female scholar studying women's experiences of famine.

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Barbara Madeloni

Neoliberal policies in teacher education marginalise faculty voice, narrow conceptions of teaching and learning and redefine how we know ourselves, our students and our work. Pressured within audit culture and the constant surveillance of accountability regimes to participate in practices that dehumanise, silence and de-form education, teacher educators are caught between compliance and complicity or the potential and risks of resistance. Written from my lived experience within the neoliberal regime of teacher education, this article examines the vulnerabilities, fears and risks that shape our choices, as well as the possibilities for ethical, answerable action.

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Cris Shore and Miri Davidson

As an early pioneer of market-led institutional reforms and New Public Management policies, New Zealand arguably has one of the most 'neoliberalised' tertiary education sectors in the world. This article reports on a recent academic dispute concerning the attempt by management to introduce a new category of casualised academic employee within one of the country's largest research universities. It is based on a fieldwork study, including document analysis, interviews and the participation of both authors in union and activist activities arising from the dispute. Whilst some academics may collude in the new regimes of governance that these reforms have created, we suggest that 'collusion' and 'resistance' are inadequate terms for explaining how academic behaviour and subjectivities are being reshaped in the modern neoliberal university. We argue for a more theoretically nuanced and situational account that acknowledges the wider legal and systemic constraints that these reforms have created. To do this, we problematise the concept of collusion and reframe it according to three different categories: 'conscious complicity', 'unwitting complicity' and 'coercive complicity'. We ask, what happens when one must 'collude' in order to resist, or when certain forms of opposition are rendered impossible by the terms of one's employment contract? We conclude by reflecting on ways in which academics understand and engage with the policies of university managers in contexts where changes to the framework governing employment relations have rendered conventional forms of resistance increasingly problematic, if not illegal.

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Andrew Ryder

Sartre's play Les Mouches (The Flies), first performed in 1943 under German occupation, has long been controversial. While intended to encourage resistance against the Nazis, its approval by the censor indicates that the regime did not recognize the play as a threat. Further, its apparently violent and solitary themes have been read as irresponsible or apolitical. For these reasons, the play has been characterized as ambiguous or worse. Sartre himself later saw it as overemphasizing individual autonomy, and in the view of one critic, it conveys an “existentialist fascism.” In response to this reading, it is necessary to attend to the elements of the play that already emphasize duty to society. From this perspective, the play can be seen as anticipating the concern with collective responsibility usually associated with the later Sartre of the 1960s. More than this, the play's apparent “ambiguity” can be found to exemplify a didacticism that is much more complex than sometimes attributed to Sartre. It is not only an exhortation about ethical responsibility, but also a performance of the difficulties attendant to that duty.

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From Risk to Resistance

Girls and Technologies of Nonviolence

Laurel Hart

From Mumbai to New York, and from Cape Town to Moscow, cell phones and other devices are becoming ubiquitous in people’s everyday lives alongside the use of various social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. Despite their pervasiveness, the application of these technologies to addressing pressing global concerns such as violence toward girls and women (in universities, on the streets, in schools, and so on) is vastly under realized. Indeed, much of the work to date on mobile and social media in relation to such violence has been on its threats and harmful effects, particularly in the context of cyberbullying and other forms of online harassment (Hart and Mitchell 2015). But what are the possibilities for turning these technologies into technologies of nonviolence?

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Claudia Mitchell

There is something rebellious about the work of Girlhood Studies so it is perhaps fitting that “Visual Disruptions” is the theme of this seventeenth issue of Girlhood Studies. The significance of 17 as an age in the life of girls and young women may vary, of course, across cultures, and, indeed, within contemporary popular culture in the West it is not necessarily seen as disruptive, as research on Seventeen magazine highlights. Nonetheless, we can think of the Janis Ian song from the 1970s, “At Seventeen,” and the many songs from The Beatles to the Sex Pistols that refer to girls being 17, and contemplate a state that is far from compliant in relation to conventional femininity. The articles in this themed issue of Girlhood Studies, guest-edited by Danai S. Mupotsa and Elina Oinas, offer a fascinating investigation into the politics of girlhood and visual culture, and the politics of disruption itself. The contributions are also a testament to the close alliance between feminism and visual studies.

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Resistance against the Mafia

A Civic Struggle to Defy an Uncontestable Power

Baris Cayli

This study is based on participant observation of a protest against the Mafia that occurred in Rome on 26 September 2009. First, this essay offers an analysis by using symbols and their meanings, which are illustrated through the 'pyramid of social protest'. Second, the framing and process of the protest are analysed. Two new concepts are presented: the culture of lawfulness frame and the implicit contested process. Third, this essay shows that defying the Mafia begins with individual motivation but ends with the collective motivation behind the decision to be an activist. This decision includes ethically oriented reasons rather than being based on a materialistically calculated reasoning. Finally, the struggle of anti-Mafia movement illuminates cultural anthropology through its desire for a progressive society in which strong symbolic interactionism among the activists play an important role.

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Kenneth Bo Nielsen

The large-scale transfer of land from rural communities to private corporations has become a defining feature of India’s development trajectory. These land transfers have given rise to a multitude of new “land wars” as dispossessed groups have struggled to retain their land. Yet while much has been written about the political economy of development that underpins this new form of dispossession, the ways in which those threatened with dispossession have sought to mobilize have to a lesser extent been subject to close ethnographic scrutiny. This article argues that an “everyday politics” perspective can enhance our understanding of India’s new land wars, using a case from Singur as the starting point. The agenda is twofold. I show how everyday life domains and sociopolitical relations pertaining to caste, class, gender, and party political loyalty were crucial to the making of the Singur movement and its politics. Second, by analyzing the movement in processual terms, I show how struggles over land can be home to a multitude of political meanings and aspirations as participants seek to use new political forums to resculpt everyday sociopolitical relations.

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Itay Noy

Levien, Michael. 2018. Dispossession without development: Land grabs in neoliberal India. New York: Oxford University Press.

Li, Tania Murray. 2014. Land’s end: Capitalist relations on an indigenous frontier. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.