Saylor.org's Comparative Politics/Social Movements and Activism
NOTE: the two following research projects will look at social movements and activism, first through the intersection of culture and politics, and then through an international comparison.
Fandom meets activism: Rethinking civic and political participation[edit | edit source]
by Melissa M. Brough and Sangita Shresthova
Abstract[edit | edit source]
Fan activism lies at the intersection of cultural and political participation. The study of fan activism can inform our understanding of contemporary collective action more broadly. We suggest four key areas for analysis: the relationships between cultural and political participation; the tension between participation and resistance in the context of fan activism; affect and the role of content worlds in civic and political mobilization; and evaluation of the impacts of fan activism. By drawing on work across several disciplines including media studies and social movement literature, the analysis of fan activism through these lenses offers insights for theorizing contemporary cultures and modes of collective action.
Fan and consumer activism are more visible than ever before, and the lines between these and traditional civic and political activities are blurring in today's increasingly "participatory" media and entertainment landscape. How might research on fandom and participatory cultures inform our understanding of contemporary forms of civic and political action? As we considered responses to this question across various disciplines, we confronted some recurrent themes and debates about how fandom and participatory entertainment cultures influence and at times reshape our understanding of civic and political mobilization.
First, we explore the intersections of cultural and political participation; second, the tension between participation and resistance in the context of fan activism; third, the role of affect and of content worlds in mobilizing civic participation; and finally, how to assess the impact of fan activism or fanlike mobilizations. We argue that these four areas of analysis not only help us to further theorize fan activism, but also highlight several ways in which the study of fan activism can inform theorizing of contemporary civic and political action more broadly. Throughout, we emphasize the applicability of existing scholarship on contemporary social movements—a body of work that has been underutilized in fan studies—for the analysis of fan activism. Conversely, we urge social movement scholars to explore the fertile but understudied terrain of fan and fanlike forms of civic and political participation.
Setting the stage: Key concepts and definitions[edit | edit source]
Fans are typically understood to be individuals who engage deeply with, and often assert their identity through, popular culture content. Fan activities commonly include writing or producing pop-culture related content such as fan fiction or remixed videos ("vids"), self-publishing analyses of media content, role-playing, and organizing conventions or other fan group activities (Hellekson and Busse 2006; Jenkins 1992). Groups of individuals constitute a fandom through interest-driven affiliations, forming a sense of collective or subcultural identity around shared tastes.
Traditionally, activism is understood to be intentional action to challenge existing hegemonies and provoke political and/or social change. Fan activism, however, has most often been associated with active fans lobbying for a content-related outcome, such as a program staying on the air (Lichtenberg, Marshak, and Winston 1975; Scardaville 2005), the representation of racial or sexual minorities (Garber and Paleo 1983; Lopez 2011), or the promotion of social themes in program content (Ross 2008). Earl and Kimport (2009), for example, defined fan activism as being "not about the mix between political concerns and culture but rather action that looks like political activism but is used toward nonpolitical ends" (221). Such a definition seems increasingly problematic, given the porous boundaries between cultural and political concerns, as well as the overtly political orientation of many fan activist campaigns today.
Fan groups may organize around real-world issues through extended engagement with and appropriation of popular culture content. Fan activism can thus also be understood as fan-driven efforts to address civic or political issues through engagement with and strategic deployment of popular culture content. Such efforts to change the status quo are "often conducted through the infrastructure of existing fan practices and relationships, and often framed through metaphors drawn from popular and participatory culture" (Jenkins 2012).
This is not new; there have been several historical instances in which fans used fandom as a resource or springboard for civic and political action. In Uranian Worlds (1983), Eric Garber and Lin Paleo note that several of the early pioneers of the 1950s homophile movement met through fandom. Fan groups have also historically mobilized around charity causes, but very few of these efforts are well documented in the academic literature. A more recent example is fans of Joss Whedon and the canceled TV show Firefly (2002–3), who continue to gather every year to organize "Can't Stop the Serenity," a fund-raiser for the women's rights advocacy organization Equality Now. Contemporary fan activism is increasingly prolific and diverse in its forms and tactics, and a clear-cut distinction between fan activism and real-world activism remains elusive. We thus use the term fan activism broadly to incorporate the range of intentional actions by fans, or the use of fanlike strategies, to provoke change.
Despite the growth of fan studies in recent years, few analyses have considered fan activism and its relationship to civic participation, with notable exceptions, such as van Zoonen (2005) and Burwell and Boler (2008). Here, we also use the term civic participation broadly to include activities including civic engagement, traditional political action, and various forms of activism in order to capture the range of manifestations of fan activism.
As a form of participatory culture, fan activism is a rich site for exploring contemporary dynamics of civic participation. There are varied notions of what constitutes a participatory culture; that of Henry Jenkins—which emerged from work in fan studies—includes relatively low barriers to entry, artistic expression, informal mentorship, sharing of one's creations, and a sense of community (Jenkins et al. 2006). The behaviors and skill sets typical of popular media fan cultures—appropriating and remixing content, developing communication infrastructures and practices within fan communities, online networking among groups with shared interests, self-publication in dialogue with popular content worlds—are increasingly relevant to contemporary modes of collective identity formation (note 1).
On the one hand, we have fans or audiences collectively mobilizing for political and social goals. Some of these mobilizations have been prompted by specific historical events, as in the case of fans of the Roswell television show using existing online fan forums and repertoires from the show to debate and collectively mourn the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and to organize charitable contributions (Stein 2002). Others are more sustained efforts to mobilize fans toward a variety of civic actions, as in the case of the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA). The HPA is a US-based nonprofit organization that works "for human rights, equality, and a better world just as Harry and his friends did" (http://thehpalliance.org/what-we-do). Inspired by Dumbledore's Army in the Harry Potter narratives, the HPA taps fan community practices to run advocacy and activist campaigns through a decentered network of paid and volunteer staff and local chapters. The HPA builds on active and creative engagement with the Harry Potter content world, connecting this content to social justice aims in the real world, such as fair trade and marriage equality. The HPA has also motivated some nonfans to join their collective actions. (For more on this case, see Jenkins 2012 and Kligler-Vilenchik et al. 2012.)
On the other hand, we see activists (fan or other) reconfiguring pop culture content for specific political goals, as in the example of so-called Avatar activism. In these cases, indigenous and Palestinian rights groups draw on imagery from James Cameron's 2009 Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster about the Na'vi, an aboriginal population on the utopian moon of Pandora whose existence is threatened by exploitative colonizers from planet Earth. Real-life rights groups have used Avatar's imagery and tropes to attract mainstream media attention. For example, protesters in the West Bank village of Bil'in dressed as the Na'vi; covered with blue body paint, they approached an Israeli military barricade, where they were subjected to a tear gas attack. Photographs and video of the protest were then circulated online, catching the attention of news media outlets.
The cameras present at the protest reveal the mediated (and remediated) nature of this event. As Simon Faulkner describes, "Organisers of the Avatar demonstration in Bil'in aimed to produce strong images that would have an impact upon those who saw them and would attract the attention of a much wider audience" (2010). Such a deployment of popular culture helped draw mass media attention to a well-known and protracted campaign, combating media fatigue by offering new, visually striking imagery linked to a recent global entertainment media event. Mark Deuze describes a similar case from Orissa, India, where indigenous anti-mining advocates appealed to international support by relating their struggle to Avatar in an ad placed in Variety, a Hollywood entertainment magazine; a CNN reporter subsequently dubbed the campaign's success an "Avatar victory" (Deuze 2010, 7). Avatar activism is not an example of fans mobilizing as activists, but rather of activists using fanlike tactics, including appropriation and remixing of pop culture content, to provoke dialogue and mobilization. These fan and fanlike activities raise the decades-old debate about the politics of culture and what 'counts' as a political act.
Intersections of cultural and civic/political participation[edit | edit source]
Although increasingly contested, political participation in modern democracies has traditionally referred to those actions and associations that seek to directly interact with institutions of the nation-state and its electoral processes. In political science, the concept of political participation is typically linked to government institutions, confining it to a narrow definition of citizenship and the ways individuals and groups may access or enact political agency. Verba, Schlozman, and Brady, for example, note that "political participation affords citizens in a democracy an opportunity to communicate information to government officials about their concerns and preferences and put pressure on them to respond" (1995, 37).
However, scholars across several disciplines have argued that informal, cultural engagement (or cultural citizenship) may also be usefully analyzed for forms of political participation (Burgess, Foth, and Klaebe 2006; Cohen 2010; Jenkins 2006; Levine 2007; Livingstone 2005; Pettingill 2007; Bennett, Freelon, and Wells 2010; Amadeo, Andolina, and Torney-Punta 2010; Higgins-D'Allessandro 2010). Over the last several decades, younger generations in particular have become civically and politically engaged in new and different ways, related less to electoral politics or government or civic organizations and more to personal interests, social networks, and cultural or commodity activism (a form of protest that is typically levied against private companies rather than governments). These modes of political participation are often enacted through informal, noninstitutionalized, nonhierarchical networks in and around the Internet (Bennett 2008; Ito et al. 2009; Jenkins et al. 2006; Kahne, Feezell, and Lee 2011). They are political insofar as they aim to influence or change existing power relations.
Analyses of social movements in the last half century show a well-established trend toward culturally defined solidarity as opposed to traditional forms of politically defined solidarity through parties, trade unions, or interest associations, and largely characterized by more flexible forms of organization (Touraine 1985; Melucci 1996; Castells 1997). Alain Touraine (1985), who offered one of the first and most influential discussions of the changing characteristics of social movements in postindustrial society, articulated a shift from a sociopolitical form of collective action (that traditionally sought greater access to, and/or transformations of, the state in response to labor and economic problems) to more sociocultural movements. Touraine argued that the "new" social movements are struggles waged over—and through—"symbolic goods, that is, of information and images, of culture itself" (774).
This shift toward culturally defined solidarity does not, however, represent a detachment from the political. Central examples of new social movements, such as the feminist and environmental movements of the late 20th century (Castells 1997), are political in nature and have entailed both formal and informal political participation, shifts in relations of power, and changes in public policy. Thus, defining political participation as explicitly linked to legislative processes or traditional political institutions alone obscures the role of culture in social and political change. What is the significance of social movements engaging with pop culture iconography to struggle for power and change? And how can we better understand why fandom may motivate fans—and sometimes even nonfans—to organize and take such action?
In the political science of modern Western democracies, the public sphere is seen to provide the crucial space for political debate (Habermas 1989; Fraser 1990; McIntosh and Youniss 2010). From a different angle, media studies and analyses of fan cultures have considered whether participative audiences constitute publics. Lisbet van Zoonen (2005) argues that the positioning of "audiences and publics, fans and citizens" as fundamentally dissimilar is not "tenable" because it assumes that politics and culture exist in completely separate spheres (56). Daniel Dayan (2005, 44) has argued that too often the notion of publics is conflated with "the dominant model of political publics," but he observes that political publics are often intertwined with "identity-seeking" or "text-oriented" publics (note 2). Both of these latter forms of publics may describe fandom, which often engages actively, critically, and collectively with popular culture. Traditionally, audiences were conceived as passive receivers or consumers of content (a notion the field of fan studies has contested), while publics were construed as active citizenry. Although not all audiences are fans, Dayan argues that "even the crudest of quantitative audiences"—audiences understood as aggregates of individual viewers—"share at least two characteristics with publics":
1. Like that of publics, the experience of audiences involves a dimension of imagination, concerning the others who share with them a given participative frame…or whom they join in "audiencing."
2. Like that of publics, audiences embody a fundamental dimension of social experience: collective attention, "watching with." (2005, 55)
As Dayan, Sonia Livingstone, and others have shown, audiences can and do turn into "'issue publics'…linked to the political" (Dayan 2005, 54; Livingstone 2005). In fact, "Publics must always have been audiences. In the political domain, they stop being audiences when their concern for an issue prevails over their engagement with the narrative that calls for it. It is this concern for—and focusing on—an issue that constitutes an audience into a public" (Dayan 2005, 57). Dayan observes, however, that for an audience to become a public, they must go public, announcing their relation to a particular issue and performing as a collective public. Thus, the HPA moves from audience to a public by going public with a collective identity formed not only around the Harry Potter content world but also—crucially—around real-world issues.
Fans and fan activists, like other publics, may also offer a counterframe to narratives consumed by audiences (Lichtenberg, Marshak, and Winston 1975; Russ 1983; Jenkins 1992; Radway 1991; Bacon-Smith 1992; Hellekson and Busse 2006). The example of Avatar activism illustrates this dynamic; the film's depiction of the struggle to resist colonization on the fantastical moon Pandora is repurposed (and remixed as a YouTube video) to represent Palestinian activists' struggles in the West Bank. The coverage of this case, combined with other reports of indigenous rights campaigns using Avatar, fueled international public debate about the narrative merits, contradictions, and potential impacts of the film for indigenous rights and environmental activism (Wachman 2010; Barrionuevo 2010; Heath Justice 2010; Lee 2010). Dayan's analysis suggests that when fans publicly and collectively offer a counterframe to a narrative that is tied to a particular issue or problem, they are acting as a political public.
Ross (2008) and others have documented fan organizations and practices as spaces of political debate. In Convergence Culture (2006), Jenkins argues that when there are low barriers to entry, popular culture and its surrounding participatory cultures (including fandom) can function as spaces where civic skills may be cultivated. Of course, fan communities, like others, are also susceptible to the homogenizing of views that may preclude, or even at times silence, others. What is most relevant here, however, is that fan communities often form around content worlds that may not be explicitly political in nature, but that can offer resources or spaces for political engagement.
Exploring the relationship between audiences and publics can thus help clarify how fan activism moves between the two. Fan or pop culture engagement can be productively analyzed as both a potential space for developing civic skills, and a catalyst for change. However, we may risk diluting our notion of the political to a point that makes it difficult to debate the merits of different strategies and tactics for civic participation, and difficult to focus on their material (not just cultural) outcomes. Framing all acts of engagement with popular entertainment as political acts can have a depoliticizing effect and limit analytical and tactical advancements. Yet privileging a purist view of politics over one that embraces people's dreams, desires, and consumption of popular culture may lead "to hypocrisy and self-deception and a politics obsessed with purity and authenticity" (Duncombe 2007, 76). The quality of civic participation is not inherently compromised by a critical engagement with commercial pop culture. Perhaps, as van Zoonen (2005), and J. K. Rowling (2008) herself suggest, such critical engagement can help us "imagine better."
(Fan) activism: Acts of participation and/or resistance?[edit | edit source]
Activism is often understood to be a resistant practice, resisting or pushing back against a hegemony in order to provoke change. Thus, the recent discourse of participatory culture in the new media space and the longer history of fan participation in pop culture suggest a possible contradiction in the term fan activism. How is it that fans can both participate in a commercial pop culture space, and at the same time resist or attempt to change the status quo within or through the same hegemonic space? When and how does commercial consumption become civic or political participation?
A large body of scholarship, particularly since the 1970s, has analyzed "culture that is used, consciously or unconsciously, effectively or not, to resist and/or change the dominant political, economic and/or social structure" (Duncombe 2002, 5; see also Hall and Jefferson 1990; Hebdidge 1979). Manifest in many forms (for example, remixing to produce a counternarrative), cultural resistance is positioned in opposition to the dominant culture but may draw on its resources in the formation of what Duncombe (2002) calls a creative free space where ideas, particularly political ideas, may be fleshed out and practices tested and implemented—and civic skills may be cultivated.
In contrast, more recent scholarship (particularly in media and fan studies out of the United States and Europe) has emphasized the paradigm of participation. A participatory culture has been characterized as fostering collaborative processes enabled through horizontal modes of communication (Jenkins et al. 2006). In this line of thinking, horizontal collaboration can foster critical engagement with popular culture because it shifts subjects from passive consumers to active participants who make decisions that influence their fan communities, and in some cases the content worlds in which they are engaged.
This body of work has been critiqued for underemphasizing structural inequalities in the political economy of the entertainment and telecommunications industries (Andrejevic 2007; Fuchs 2011) and obscuring forms of resistance aimed at shifting power relations more radically (note 3). Indeed, the recent literature on participatory culture in the United States has focused primarily on participation in mainstream entertainment spaces rather than alternative activist practices; this area merits further attention. However, binary thinking that positions participatory cultures in opposition to cultural resistance is problematic (Jenkins, Ford, and Green forthcoming). Decades of cultural studies have shown examples of resistant practices within or through commercial spaces; the commercial/noncommercial dichotomy is often too simplistic to be analytically useful.
The field of fan studies has, since its inception, made important interventions at this junction. Studies of the genre of slash (Doty 2002; Busse 2006; Alexander and Harris 1998), which centers on homoeroticism between fictional characters, have argued that fan appropriation of content is itself a form of resistance to heteronormativity (not to mention copyright law). Lori Kido Lopez's (2001) study of Racebending.com (http://www.racebending.com/) offers a recent example of a fan-driven critique of hegemonic whitewashing casting practices and unequal racial representation in Hollywood cinema. Racebending.com is a fan effort to protest casting decisions for the film version of Avatar: The Last Airbender (2010), in which white actors were cast in several Asian character roles. Although the fans did not succeed in reversing the casting decisions, Lopez (2011) argues that their protests helped promote dialogue about whitewashing in Hollywood's casting practices and critically reframed public perception of the film beyond The Last Airbender fan base.
Recent cultural studies on commodity activism also offer some important insights. Roopali Mukherjee (2011), for example, analyzed Kanye West's music video indicting human rights abuses in the international diamond trade, tracing the tensions of this activist stance coming from a hip-hop celebrity whose very success and artistic style is enmeshed in a culture of bling. She discusses the troubled history of the African American community's relationship to consumer citizenship, from exclusion from the market to strategic attempts to access power through market-based practices, including boycotts and buycotts. As the closing caption of West's music video implies ("Please purchase conflict-free diamonds"), this form of commodity activism is squarely situated within a notion of consumer citizenship, in which political agency is seemingly enacted through consumption choices.
Critics have argued that consumer citizenship is emblematic of neoliberal political culture, characterized largely by the privatization of government services and shrinking of the liberal welfare state. Consumer citizenship may be increasingly normalized as the primary mode of access to political agency while obfuscating traditional civic responsibilities and structural issues of inequality (Mukherjee 2011; Cohen 2003; Cronin 2000; García Canclini 2001). Rather than dismissing commodity-based forms of activism, however, Mukherjee argues that such cases "allow us to trace how neoliberal citizens actualize their political subjectivities, not through rejections of commodity culture, but rather, from within circuits of consumption and exchange" (2011, 7). Commodity activism thus complicates our understanding of resistance, forcing us to consider "civic politics in the neoliberal era" as possibly "enabled by, and nurtured within, modes of consumer citizenship" (ibid. 9, 16).
Fan activism makes sense in such a context; social movement scholarship has shown that the form a collective action takes often reflects the culture and structure that are its target of change (Della Porta and Diani 2006; Juris 2004). Put another way, "In a world where the importance of corporations is increasingly prominent in daily life, studying fan activism offers one window into the private power dynamics of corporate-civil contests" (Earl and Kimport 2009, 239).
Fan participation in and through commercial entertainment spaces is not predetermined to be resistant or complicit—in fact, it is often both—but its political significance lies in part in the changes in relations of power that may occur through such participation. In industrialized democracies of the Global North, we can understand power as circulating primarily through discourses and networks (Castells 2009; Foucault 1980). In that case, the political potential of participatory entertainment cultures lies in the ways cultural codes and discourses are contested and remixed, as well as the ways in which the resulting content is consumed and reconfigured as a resource for mobilization. In other words, we need to pay attention to how particular actors construct, use, and circulate their voices through the production or reproduction of cultural content, as well as whether and by whom content is consumed and engaged. Fandom has historically grappled with the problem of voice as consumers asserted agency over media content in an attempt to be heard by other fans and by the content producers. How to move from having a voice within a subculture to being heard more broadly in civic and political spaces is a central challenge for all activists, and examples like Avatar activism and the HPA offer strategies emerging from fan and fanlike practices.
In a fragmented cultural and political context, where politics is no longer played out primarily through institutional affiliations, we thus arrive at an expanded understanding of participatory entertainment cultures as spaces that may support, and at times even encourage, grassroots activism and civic participation. The HPA exemplifies this possibility. It was mobilized by drawing on the Harry Potter narratives: the best-selling book series and films released by Warner Bros., a subsidiary of Time Warner—the world's largest media conglomerate. Yet in their fight against media consolidation, which they describe as "fighting for what Harry, the Order of the Phoenix, and Potterwatch did not have: the right to a free press" (note 4), the HPA has confronted the very system that has so successfully produced and distributed the Harry Potter content worlds. This example illustrates the fluidity—and potential contradictions—of fan activism, in which networked activists strategically draw resources from and at the same time fight against structures of commercial pop culture. HPA's work may point to a deep-rooted allegiance to narratives rather than to the commercial structures that circulate them; it certainly illustrates the complex relationship between resistance and participation in contemporary forms of fan activism. The content worlds created, maintained, and contested through the telling and retelling of narratives play a key role in this complex relationship.
Content worlds: Questions of affect, collective identity, and authenticity[edit | edit source]
Is buying a conflict-free diamond because of a hip-hop video really activism? Is protesting whitewashing casting decisions activism? What is authentic activism? Does it need to look like the high-risk, disciplined actions of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Greensboro Four's civil rights struggles to be taken seriously, as Malcolm Gladwell (2010) has suggested?
Duncombe (2007) argues that taking activism too seriously can be a pitfall; the tendency of progressives in particular to insist on the logical and rational as the most legitimate mode of persuasion overlooks the ways play, performance, spectacle, and affect motivate civic action. Alberto Melucci argues that individuals mobilize for social change only when their affective and communicative needs, as well as their needs for solidarity, coincide with the collective's goals; these are fundamental to the development of collective identity and subsequent collective action (1996). Engaging affect is thus central to the process of changing society's values, beliefs, and cultural patterns (Melucci 1996; Castells 2009). Melucci further argues that social change entails struggles over the cultural codes through which social meaning is produced, maintained, or changed. Social movements challenge dominant codes and discourses (and ultimately the legitimacy of existing social configurations of power) by producing and diffusing alternative codes, such as new ways of living and new forms of language.
Even as the opportunities to challenge codes through user-generated content networks grow, the inability to achieve visibility in the mass media can still obscure a group's cause, even—and especially—in today's fragmented mediascape (Thompson 2005; Castells 2009). Recent examples of activism mobilized in large part through user-generated content platforms and social networks illustrate the ongoing importance of the interplay between social and broadcast media to attain mass visibility and influence public opinion. In the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movements, for example, user-generated material provided crucial content for national and international broadcasters, which in turn was vital to the visibility and spread of the movements as well as subsequent shifts in public discourse. Content produced by members of the Occupy movement has frequently remixed pop culture tropes (Trope and Swartz 2011). Although pop culture codes may not always play a role in such mobilizations, they can help draw attention to the campaigns or movements and fuel collective identity formation around shared social meanings. Fan culture offers a history of appropriation and critical engagement with pop culture that could inform broader activist strategies toward increased visibility and collective identity formation.
Most important, perhaps, is what might be learned from fan cultures about storytelling and the use of content worlds to prompt participation. Dayan writes, "Fiction turns into a political force by providing scripts for action" (2005, 53); he sees dramaturgy and performance as key components in the conversion of an audience into a public. Other contributions from media and cultural studies have debated the role of fantasy and cultural engagement in helping to inspire civic participation (Fiske 1989; Hartley 2008; Radway 1991; Jenkins 2006; Duncombe 2007). John Street articulates the connection between entertainment, content worlds, and politics thus: "Politics, like popular culture, is about creating an 'audience,' a people who will laugh at their jokes, understand their fears and share their hopes. Both the popular media and politicians are engaged in creating works of popular fiction which portray credible worlds that resonate with people's experiences" (in van Zoonen 2005, 59). Fan-driven civic participation, fueled by affective engagement in content worlds, offers overt examples of such linkages and how storytelling and other fan practices may scaffold mobilization for real-world action.
Fan culture also asks us to consider not just storytelling but transmedia storytelling as a catalyst for collective identity formation and mobilization. Transmedia storytelling is "a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels to create a unified and coordinated entertainment experience" (Jenkins 2007). Transmedia storytelling has proliferated throughout the entertainment industry, but it has also been taken up as an activist strategy. Lina Srivastava has defined transmedia activism as creating "social impact by using storytelling by a number of decentralized authors who share assets and create content for distribution across multiple forms of media to raise awareness and influence action" (2009) (note 5). Avatar activism is an obvious example where transmedia storytelling is taken up by activists to strategically borrow, remix, and gain visibility across media platforms; in such cases, it is both activists using social media platforms and the mainstream media that move the story content across platforms. Future research on fandom and fan cultures could help further elaborate the possibilities (as well as the challenges) of transmedia activism.
Although this focus on storytelling is by no means new and has been addressed in the social movement literature (Poletta 2006), the centrality of content worlds to fan cultures pushes us to rethink storytelling as a collective activity in which individuals and groups contribute to the telling, retelling, and remixing of stories through various media platforms. In doing so, they help shape the contours of content worlds that may serve as affective resources and organizing structures for the mobilizing of collective action. At the same time, this focus on narrative reminds us to remain watchful of the ideological and structural hegemonies that these content worlds may perpetuate. What, for example, do we make of Palestinian activists dressed as blue Na'vi drawing international press coverage by engaging iconography from a film critiqued for its problematic treatment of colonialism (Žižek 2010; Heath Justice 2010)? A noncritical romanticizing of appropriation ignores the complexity of the cultural politics and histories of pop culture imagery in relation to real-world injustices.
Evaluating the impact of fan activism[edit | edit source]
How do we understand the effects of contemporary fan and fanlike activism? Do we value change at the individual level, or change at the community or societal level? In reality, the lines between these are often blurry, and change occurs in complex, nonlinear ways. To complicate matters further, social change is sometimes measured as an aggregate of the individual, as in the case of Robert Putnam's much-debated Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (2000). That is, change may be viewed from a more distributed perspective, in which individual-level change aggregates to broader society-level change (that is, the sum of individual parts), or from a more communitarian perspective, in which the social change occurs through the interaction of a group, as in Pierre Levy's (1997) collective intelligence model. Although political participation as it was traditionally conceived can be relatively easily documented through statistics such as voting trends (an aggregate of individual actions), this broader, more nuanced understanding of political participation requires different approaches to evaluating impact.
Fandom is characterized by what Ito et al. (2009) would label as interest-driven participation, where participation is prompted and structured by specialized interests and activities. The quantitative study by Kahne, Feezell, and Lee (2011) makes an important link in measuring the potential correlation between youths' participation in online, interest-driven cultural activities and their civic engagement; they argue that such interest-driven activities can "serve as a gateway to participation in important aspects of civic and, at times, political life, including volunteering, engagement in community problem-solving, protest activities, and political voice" (20). Although the study of Kahne, Feezell, and Lee includes traditional measures of civic and political activity, the findings suggest that in order to capture the range of modes of youth civic engagement, we need to look at spaces and forms of participatory culture.
We thus suggest that fan activism necessitates an exploratory move away from traditional frameworks of assessment. The broader understanding of civic participation allows researchers the space to identify modes of engagement that are more organically based on actual practices, rather than grafting a traditional model onto them (Pettingill 2007). We must also consider where groups and their members place value in terms of their impacts; a participatory culture should not be evaluated solely through nonparticipatory means (see Bennett 2008). For example, in asking how HPA encourages civic participation, we must also take seriously the organizing that happens within the practices that define the broader Harry Potter fandom; these may include the discussions, creative production, and collaborative efforts around sites like MuggleNet (http://www.mugglenet.com/) and The Leaky Cauldron (http://the-leaky-cauldron.org/), the Wizard Rock scene, the Quiddich tournaments, and annual fan conventions. We may consider these modes of participation as possible spaces of collective identity formation and mobilization that are supported by fan cultures, and seek out the insights that these social and cultural formations offer to analyses of contemporary civic participation.
Wellman (2001) has introduced the term networked individualism to "describe the hybrid quality that combines the communitarian nature of community with the 'strength of weak ties' which [are] found in social networks" (Burgess, Foth, and Klaebe 2006, 6). Networked individualism may be used to characterize both fan cultures that organize around a shared interest (increasingly online) and contemporary activist mobilization (Castells 2007). In this sense, some forms of contemporary civic participation may increasingly exhibit characteristics common to fan culture; both are adapting in similar ways to new capacities offered by digital media. It is ever more common for collective identities of fan groups to emerge through online interactions with strangers, sharing, remixing, and debating content worlds (Hellekson and Busse 2006); the same may increasingly be said about contemporary mobilizations. Although some (like Gladwell) bemoan "weak(er)-tie" activism (note 6), we might instead consider whether fandom and online participatory cultures facilitate a flow between networked individualism and collective action—that is, from individuated participation to a collectivity or a public.
Fan activists may have no other social tie but their shared interest in a particular content world, around and through which they come together, interact, and develop a sense of collective identity that may then be mobilized toward collective action. Melucci's (1996) analysis of collective identity formation in social movements suggests that preexisting affective communities (for example, fan networks) can play an important role in provoking participation in a movement, particularly when dealing with networks of loose affiliations.
But how sustainable is activism that relies on the appeal of ever-changing pop culture content, trends, and online networks? As Jenkins (2012) explains, HPA is working toward the longer-term sustainability of the organization through cross-fandom alliances in preparation for the decreased visibility of Harry Potter now that the last film in the series has been released. In this case, longer-term, real-world campaigns are driving alliances between different fandoms and linkages across different content worlds; an area for future study is to explore how and to what effect fan activists traverse distinct content worlds. In contrast, the case of Avatar activism raises the question of how to think about continuity in a context where immediate visibility was the primary objective of the use of pop culture (note 7). Together, these cases illustrate that pop culture may be utilized to provoke short-term or immediate actions, while at other times, content worlds are engaged in extensive and multifaceted ways to move toward ongoing civic engagement. The intended life span of fan or pop culture activist campaigns must be taken into account when evaluating their effectiveness.
The importance of incorporating participatory approaches to understanding and evaluating fan activism, the complexity and nonlinearity of social change, the proliferation of new modes of organizing through online platforms, and the particularities of different fan cultures all suggest the need for case-based studies to enhance our understanding of how fan cultures may inform, influence, and help to mobilize around political and civic action. The four areas of analysis presented here may be productively applied to future studies to further theorize fan activism and other forms of contemporary civic action. Such studies may also want to consider Dayan's (2005, 52–53) framework for analysis of six key features of public action: performance (broadly defined, and connecting the public to the public sphere); styles of interaction (or "manners" of performing as publics); reflexivity (self-awareness needed to define the community); commitment (definition of what it means to be a member); issues (addressing defined problems); and stability (a certain sense of continuity). There is clearly much work to be done.
Conclusion[edit | edit source]
Work across several scholarly fields permits us to identify productive points of tension and debate that may inform future research on civic participation through fan and fanlike pop culture engagement. We organized these points into four thematic areas: intersections of cultural and political participation; the relationship between participation and resistance in the context of fan activism; the role of affect and content worlds in mobilizing civic participation; and issues of evaluating impact. These are key areas for future analysis of fan activism and civic participation.
We have noted some increasing similarities between fan cultures and contemporary mobilizations; the modes and structures particular to fan cultures may inform our analyses of contemporary civic action more broadly. The study of social movements, a body of work that has rarely been taken up in fan studies, can help us to think about visibility and the relationship between affect, cultural codes, and collective identities in the mobilization process. Across the literatures and cases reviewed, we saw the significance of content worlds and storytelling (including transmedia storytelling) in the development of collective identity and the formation and mobilization of publics. We problematized the false dichotomies of commercial versus political (or activist), and participation versus resistance. At the same time, we cautioned against framing all acts of engagement with popular entertainment as political acts; not only could this have a depoliticizing effect, but it also limits analytical advancements based on the specificities of particular pop culture and fan activist tactics. We thus call for further case-based studies as a next step toward more nuanced understandings of how fan cultures may mobilize around political and civic goals. Finally, we challenged the shortcomings of conventional measures of civic and political participation and emphasized the need to situate impact studies of fan activism within a participatory framework more appropriate to the participatory cultures that support it.
Future research should consider emergent (as well as existing) modes and structures of engagement in fan activism, such as how content worlds may serve to bridge networked individualism and collective action. There is a critical need for transnational analyses of fan activism. Although our examples here contain transnational elements, we have not considered the specific dynamics of transnationalism in relation to fan and pop culture activism. There is also a clear bias toward Western popular entertainment in our examples, which could be greatly improved—and perhaps called into question—through comparison with cases of non-Western fan activism. Finally, in our review of the literature, we found little in the way of direct critiques of fan activism, perhaps because it is a relatively new topic of study and has yet to be seriously engaged by scholars outside of the field of fan studies.
We close with a provocation about the analytical boundaries of fan activism: At what point does the concept of fandom become too diluted to be analytically useful? Just as we may risk diluting the notion of the political, so too we risk diluting the notion of a particular cultural formation—fandom—that fans have long struggled to have valued on its own terms.
1. We define content worlds as the narratives and practices shared by the members of a particular audience or community. In the case of fandom, content worlds refer to both the popular culture content and to the individual and collaborative creative expressions produced by the fan community.
2. Dayan defines taste publics as "generally focused on works, texts, or programmes; the performance of these publics is generally 'verdictive' (evaluative)." He contends that "'identity publics' (such as those of music, games or sports fans) display their response to games or performances in order to endow themselves with a visible identity" (2005, 54–55).
3. In other literatures, such as the field of participatory communication in Latin America, participation is often understood as a counterhegemonic practice through which marginalized communities become agents of change in their communities. This field has not, however, considered participatory culture in commercial contexts in the ways discussed here. For a historical review of the participatory paradigm as a resistant practice in Latin America, see Dagron and Tufte (2006).
4. For more information about these campaigns, see http://www.the-leaky-cauldron.org/2010/11/1/harry-potter-alliances-launches-deathly-hallows-campaign and http://stopbigmedia.com/potterwatch.
5. See also "Transmedia Activism: Basic Framework" at http://transmediaactivism.wordpress.com/the-basic-framework/; for further discussion of some of the potentials and risks of transmedia mobilization, see Constanza-Chock (2010).
6. In a widely debated article published in the New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell (2010) argued that social media, as platforms built around weak ties, "seldom lead to high-risk activism," which he implies is more valuable.
7. Faulkner (2010) discusses the opportunities and objectives of instant visibility in Avatar activism. For a further discussion of the notion of flash fandom and its primary objectives of visibility, see Mehta (2010).
Andrejevic, Mark. 2007. iSpy: Surveillance and Power in the Interactive Era. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.
Bacon-Smith, Camille. 1992. Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Barrionuevo, Alexei. 2010. "Tribes of Amazon Find an Ally Out of 'Avatar.'" New York Times, April 11. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/world/americas/11brazil.html.
Bennett, W. Lance. 2008. "Changing Citizenship in the Digital Age." In Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth, edited by W. Lance Bennett, 1–24. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Burgess, Jean, Marcus Foth, and Helen Klaebe. 2006. "Everyday Creativity as Civic Engagement: A Cultural Citizenship View of New Media." Paper presented at the 2006 Communications Policy and Research Forum, Sydney, Australia, September 25–26. http://www.networkinsight.org/events/cprf_2006.html.
Burwell, Catherine, and Megan Boler. 2008. "Calling on the Colbert Nation: Fandom, Politics and Parody in an Age of Media Convergence." Electronic Journal of Communication 18. http://www.cios.org/www/ejc/EJCPUBLIC/018/2/01845.html.
Busse, Kristina. 2006. "My Life Is a WIP on My LJ: Slashing the Slasher and the Reality of Celebrity and Internet Performances." In Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet, edited by Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse, 207–24. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
Castells, Manuel. 1997. The Power of Identity. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley-Blackwell.
Castells, Manuel. 2007. "Communication, Power and Counter-power in the Network Society." International Journal of Communication 1: 238–66.
Castells, Manuel. 2009. Communication Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cohen, Cathy. 2010. Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics. New York: Oxford University Press.
Cohen, Lizabeth. 2003. A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America. New York: Knopf.
Constanza-Chock, Sasha. 2010. "Se Ve, Se Siente: Transmedia Mobilization in the Los Angeles Immigrant Rights Movement." PhD diss. University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
Cronin, Anne M. 2000. Advertising and Consumer Citizenship: Gender, Images and Rights. London: Routledge.
Dagron, Alfonso Gumicio, and Thomas Tufte, eds. 2006. Communication for Social Change Anthology: Historical and Contemporary Readings. London: Communication for Social Change Consortium.
Dayan, Daniel. 2005. "Mothers, Midwives and Abortionists: Genealogy, Obstetrics, Audiences and Publics." In Audiences and Publics: When Cultural Engagement Matters for the Public Sphere, edited by Sonia Livingstone, 43–76. London: Intellect.
Della Porta, Donatella, and Mario Diani. 2006. Social Movements: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Deuze, Mark. 2010. "Survival of the Mediated." Journal of Cultural Science 3 (2): 1–11.
Doty, Alexander. 2002. "'My Beautiful Wickedness': The Wizard of Oz as a Lesbian Fantasy." In Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture, edited by Henry Jenkins, Tara McPherson, and Jane Shattuc, 138–58. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Duncombe, Stephen. 2002. Introduction to Cultural Resistance Reader, edited by Stephen Duncombe, 1–16. Brooklyn, NY: Verso.
Duncombe, Stephen. 2007. Dream: Re-imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy. New York: New Press.
Earl, Jennifer, and Katrina Kimport. 2009. "Movement Societies and Digital Protest: Fan Activism and Other Nonpolitical Protest Online." Sociological Theory 27: 220–43. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9558.2009.01346.x.
Faulkner, Simon. 2010. "Not Just Avatar Activism." Simon's Teaching Blog, September 18. http://simonsteachingblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/18/not-just-Avatar-activism.
Fiske, John. 1989. Understanding Popular Culture. New York: Routledge.
Foucault, Michel. 1980. "Two Lectures." In Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977, edited by Colin Gordon, 78–108. New York: Vintage.
Fraser, Nancy. 1990. "Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy." Social Text 25/26: 56–80. doi:10.2307/466240.
Fuchs, C. 2011. Foundations of Critical Media and Information Studies. New York: Routledge.
García Canclini, Nestor. 2001. Consumers and Citizens: Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Garber, Eric, and Lin Paleo. 1983. Uranian Worlds: A Reader's Guide to Alternative Sexuality in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Boston: G. K. Hall.
Gladwell, Malcolm. 2010. "Small Change: Why The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted." New Yorker, October 4. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/10/04/101004fa_fact_gladwell.
Habermas, Jürgen. 1989. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. Translated by Thomas Burger. Cambridge, UK: Polity.
Hall, Stuart, and Tony Jefferson. 1990. Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-war Britain. New York: Routledge.
Harris, Cheryl, and Alison Alexander, eds. 1998. Theorizing Fandom: Fans, Subculture, and Identity. New York: Hampton Press.
Hartley, John. 2008. Television Truths. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Hebdidge, Dick. 1979. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. New York: Routledge.
Hellekson, Karen, and Kristina Busse, eds. 2006. Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet: New Essays. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
Higgins-DAllessandro, Ann. 2010. "The Transdisciplinary Nature of Citizenship and Civic/Political Engagement Evaluation." In Handbook of Research on Civic Engagement in Youth, edited by Lonnie R. Sherrod, Judith Torney-Purta, and Constance A. Flanagan, 593–620. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Ito, Mizuko, Sonja Baumer, Matteo Bittanti, danah boyd, Rachel Cody, Becky Herr-Stephenson, Heather A. Horst, Patricia G. Lange, Dilan Mahendran, Katynka Z. Martinez, C. J. Pascoe, Dan Perkel, Laura Robinson, Christo Sims, and Lisa Tripp. 2009. Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Jenkins, Henry. 1992. Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. New York: Routledge.
Jenkins, Henry. 2006. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press.
Jenkins, Henry. 2007. "Transmedia Storytelling 101." In Confessions of an Aca-Fan, March 22. http://www.henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html.
Jenkins, Henry. 2012. "'Cultural Acupuncture': Fan Activism and the Harry Potter Alliance." In "Transformative Works and Fan Activism," edited by Henry Jenkins and Sangita Shresthova, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 10. doi:10.3983/twc.2012.0305.
Jenkins, Henry, Katie Clinton, Ravi Purushotma, Alice J. Robison, and Margaret Weigel. 2006. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Cambridge, MA: MacArthur Foundation.
Jenkins, Henry, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green. Forthcoming. Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. New York: NYU Press.
Juris, Jeffrey. 2004. "Networked Social Movements: Global Movements for Global Justice." In The Network Society: A Cross-Cultural Perspective, edited by Manuel Castells, 341–62. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.
Justice, Daniel Heath. 2010. "James Cameron's Avatar: Missed Opportunities." First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies, January 20. http://www.firstpeoplesnewdirections.org/blog/?p=169.
Kahne, Joseph, Jessica Timpany Feezell, and Namjin Lee. 2011. "The Civic and Political Significance of Online Participatory Cultures Among Youth Transitioning to Adulthood." DMLcentral Working Paper. http://ypp.dmlcentral.net/publications.
Kligler-Vilenchik, Neta, Joshua McVeigh-Schultz, Christine Weitbrecht, and Chris Tokuhama. 2012. "Experiencing Fan Activism: Understanding the Power of Fan Activist Organizations through Members' Narratives." In "Transformative Works and Fan Activism," edited by Henry Jenkins and Sangita Shresthova, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 10. doi:10.3983/twc.2012.0322.
Lee, Jessica. 2010. "'Avatar' Activism: James Cameron Joins Indigenous Struggles Worldwide." Indypendent, April 26. http://www.indypendent.org/2010/04/26/avatar-activism.
Levine, Peter. 2007. The Future of Democracy: Developing the Next Generation of American Citizens. Lebanon, NH: Tufts University Press.
Levy, Pierre. 1997. Collective Intelligence. New York: Basic Books.
Lichtenberg, Jacqueline, Sondra Marshak, and Joan Winston. 1975. Star Trek Lives! New York: Corgi.
Livingstone, Sonia. 2005. "On the Relationship between Audiences and Publics." In Audiences and Publics: When Cultural Engagement Matters for the Public Sphere, edited by Sonia Livingstone, 17–42. London: Intellect.
Lopez, Lori Kido. 2011. "Fan-Activists and the Politics of Race in The Last Airbender." International Journal of Cultural Studies 14: 1–15. doi:10.1177/1367877911422862.
McIntosh, Hugh, and James Youniss. 2010. "Towards a Political Theory of Political Socialization of Youth." In Handbook of Research on Civic Engagement in Youth, edited by Lonnie R. Sherrod, Judith Torney-Purta, and Constance A. Flanagan, 23–42. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Mehta, Ritesh. 2010. "'Flash Activism': Civic Justice Catalyzed by a Bollywood Film." From Participatory Culture to Public Participation. https://sites.google.com/site/participatorydemocracyproject/.
Melucci, Alberto. 1996. Challenging Codes: Collective Action in the Information Age. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Mukherjee, Roopali. 2011. "Diamonds (are from Sierra Leone): Bling and the promise of consumer citizenship." In Commodity Activism: Cultural Resistance in Neoliberal Times, edited by Roopali Mukherjee and Sara Banet-Weiser, 114–33. New York: New York University Press.
Pettingill, Lindsay. 2007. "Engagement 2.0? How the New Digital Media Can Invigorate Civic Engagement." GoodWork Project Paper Series. http://www.goodworkproject.org/publications/papers.htm.
Poletta, Francesca. 2006. It Was Like a Fever: Storytelling in Protest and Politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Radway, Janice. 1991. Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Ross, Sharon Marie. 2008. Beyond the Box: Television and the Internet. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Rowling, J. K. 2008. "The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination." Commencement speech, Harvard University. http://harvardmagazine.com/2008/06/the-fringe-benefits-failure-the-importance-imagination.
Russ, Joanna. 1983. How to Suppress Women's Writing. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Scardaville, Melissa C. 2005. "Accidental Activists: Fan Activism in the Soap Opera Community." American Behavioral Scientist 48: 881–901. doi:10.1177/0002764204273174.
Srivastava, Lina. 2009. "Transmedia Activism: Telling Your Story across Media Platforms to Create Effective Social Change." NAMAC. http://www.namac.org/node/6925.
Stein, Louisa Ellen. 2002. "Subject: 'Off Topic: Oh My God, US Terrorism!' Roswell Fans Respond to 11 September." European Journal of Cultural Studies 5: 471–91. doi:10.1177/1364942002005004297.
Thompson, John B. 2005. "The New Visibility." Theory, Culture, and Society 22 (6): 31–51.
Touraine, Alain. 1985. "An Introduction to the Study of Social Movements." Social Research 52: 749–88.
Trope, Alison, and Lana Swartz. 2011. "The Visual Culture of the Occupation: Month One and Counting." Civic Paths, October 26. http://civicpaths.uscannenberg.org/2011/10/the-visual-culture-of-the-occupation-month-one-and-counting/.
van Zoonen, Liesbet. 2005. Entertaining the Citizen: When Politics and Popular Culture Converge. Lanham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield.
Verba, Sidney, Kay Lehman Schlozman, and Henry E. Brady. 1995. Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Wachman, Richard. 2010. "Indian Miner Vedanta Faces Avatar-style Protest at Its London AGM." Guardian, July 25. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/jul/25/vedanta-faces-avatar-protest-agm.
Wellman, Barry. 2001. "Physical Place and Cyberplace: The Rise of Personalized Networking." International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 25 (2): 227–52. doi:10.1111/1468-2427.00309.
Žižek, Slavoj. 2010. "Return of the Natives." New Statesman, March 4. http://www.newstatesman.com/film/2010/03/avatar-reality-love-couple-sex.
[edit | edit source]
by Janine Claysmith
The purpose of this essay is to explore the dynamics of social movements, and better understand why some populations succeed when others fail. This topic was motivated by travels across the United States and Europe. In these journeys, minority groups and their unequal treatment by society were a constant feature, yet unique to specific regions. Why haven’t these groups assembled, participated in social activism, and achieved national equality?
After four months of residing France, followed by in depth research on social movements, a hypothesis has evolved. Discrimination of social groups is rooted in a nations’ political, social, and economic history. Citizens of the United States highly value their democratic principles, including basic civil and political rights. These two principles have nurtured a country in which many organizations actively promote human interest through social activism. When a specific group of immigrant workers in the South experienced social and political pressure as migrant workers, they took advantage of American culture. By collaborating with national organizations including student and religious groups, the small coalition’s social movement for basic human rights overcame one of the largest restaurant chains in the world.
However, the immigrant community in France has a larger impediment to overcome in order to achieve equality. Due to a lack of assimilation and acknowledgement of a problem within immigrant communities on behalf of the French government, racial bias is deeply ingrained in French culture. Thus, France needs a movement based on race in order to work toward social equality.
Introduction[edit | edit source]
Across the world, immigrant populations are a disempowered group. In the United States for example, the majority of immigrants enter with limited education and employable skills. This results in numerous social, political, and economic forces working against the assimilation and success of immigrants in their new country of residence.
What exactly are the forces immigrants face as they cross borders? And why have fighting these forces resulted in successes in some countries but still failures in others? The answer lies in the history and culture of each respective nation. Who is entering? And what point in time culturally, politically, and economically are they entering the host country? How has the migrant group been historically perceived and treated by the host nation? What ideas have been institutionalized that work against the immigrants’ efforts of forming a new and better life abroad? The following text will try to understand why some migrant movements in the United States have succeeded, yet France has yet to witness the rise of a strong migrant force.
In France and in the United States, history has generated prejudices against outside groups, leaving modern immigrants to deal with societal discrimination based on physical appearances and historical precedence. As government institutions answer to their constituents, bills and laws are often passed in favor of the narrow-minded polity of that period. Thus, politics absorbs societal discrimination. In order to rise up as a viable social movement, immigrant groups are forced to work within their new, respective cultures. As a result, immigrant workers face a new environment that further complicates their chances of integration.
Entering the 21st century, some immigrant communities have managed to successfully form movements overcoming financial, political, and social obstacles in search of equality in their new nations. Working within the United States has proven a more hospitable environment for those looking to achieve fundamental needs equal with the rest of the nation. This is explained by the foundation on which the country has, compared to France, recently been founded. The founding fathers instilled in the United States the value of basic human rights, as well as the many political processes to protect what Americans value. Together, these values have fostered hundreds of interest groups and organizations empathetic to humans living in distress. In Immokalee Florida, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) incorporated intelligent social movement tactics with these fundamental American values. Their efforts resulted in a victory in 2005 against the largest fast-food chain in America. CIW remains a powerful force within the community, and an icon for emerging social movements.
In contrast, immigrant movements fighting discrimination in France face a different state of affairs. Embedded in their political and social culture is a color-blind assimilation process that has failed to address the growing violence and turmoil suppressing immigrant communities. Only recently in 2005 has a national organization, the Representative Council of Black Organizations (CRAN), managed to emerge and represent racial groups that the French government does not officially recognize. By mobilizing resources like the United States, CRAN is calling upon the French government to recognize the discrimination problem troubling society in order to work on a solution. The following section will explain how CIW began and gained momentum as a successful migrant movement in Florida.
CIW and Immigration in the U.S.[edit | edit source]
The town of Immokalee sits in a rich agricultural region in Southwest Florida. Spurred by inhumane living and working conditions, in 1993 a small group of workers first gathered in a community church with an interest in improving their community and lives. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers was born (CIW).
Since 1993, CIW has successfully expanded and grown, overcoming the difficulty of a continuously migrating membership, on top of problems with group unity, in order to maintain a functioning coalition. This is evident in their nearly 2,500 members of temporary and long-term residency in Immokalee as of 2006. Many citizens migrate, leaving only 10-15% of the coalition’s staff to remain employed at CIW on a permanent basis. The majority of CIW’s union originates from Mexico (50%), with the remaining portion from Guatemala (30%), Haiti (10%), and other nationalities (mostly African- American) 10% (CIW).
Today, their membership card represents the powerful organization into which CIW has transpired. With a desire for improvement in their daily lives, in 2001, CIW officially challenged Taco Bell because for their national market power and control over producers in the U.S. The fast food chain is owned by YUM! brand foods, the world's largest restaurant company in terms of system restaurants with more than 34,000 over 100 countries, including chains such as KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and A&W (YUM!).
In April 2001, CIW demanded Taco Bell use their influence as a major buyer to put pressure on their tomato suppliers to improve pay, field conditions, and living situations provided by the employer. Their primary technique involved promoting a national boycott of the fast-food chain in the name of human rights. By taking advantage of available resources and networks, in four years their campaign succeeded over Taco Bell restaurants. YUM! officials promised to promote and enforce higher pay and better working conditions for their workers.
CIW’s success against a corporation that generated more than $9 billion in revenues in 1995 is a monumental statement of the strength of small movements such as CIW (YUM!). Their success attests to the potential empowerment possible for immigrants and agricultural workers in the United States.
What explains CIW’s amazing success against such a powerful force? The humble organization faced not only a multi-billion dollar business, but an American political climate that was anything but friendly to immigrants at the time. In fact, political and social forces across the U.S. have made strong, anti-immigrant statements that have only increased in recent years.
Organizing has proven especially difficult for CIW as a migrant community. The group faces a fluid membership that could potentially weaken any progress the coalition had made, for workers regularly migrate according to the demands of the growing season. To overcome a continually shifting membership, CIW leaders foster unity and strength, focusing on spreading their knowledge and motivation to every member (CIW). Since group success relies on individual members, each person plays a vital role in reaching their goals.
CIW members’ legal status also threatened their support and ability to fight against employers. Illegal workers are especially vulnerable to exploitation by employers because technically they are not protected by labor laws and are constantly facing the risk of deportation. By threatening unemployment or reporting individuals to immigration authorities, employers held considerable power over their migrant employees in Immokalee. Maintaining a supportive foundation year round for CIW also proved challenging, since most migrant workers reside in Immokalee temporarily, migrating with the seasons.
Further sources of strong anti-immigrant sentiment stem from minutemen groups that have formed along the US-Mexico border, taking protection of the U.S. from immigrants into their own hands (Bahadur). As recently as February 2006, the city of Farmers Branch passed an act outlawing landlords renting to illegal immigrants in Texas, as well as proclaiming English the city’s official language (Garay).
On a national scale during the same year that CIW accomplished their victory, many anti-immigrant bills were debated in the legislature. For example, one law proposed would have allowed state and local police officers to enforce federal immigration laws (State of Emergency). Further bills increasing fences along the border, limiting visas to immigrants, and enforcing tough penalties on illegal-aliens, such as H.R. 4437 in 2005 often passed in one house and died in the other (U.S. Senate). In summary, the immigrant community in the United States faced a strong anti-immigrant environment countering efforts toward a social movement.
Social Movements Theory Applied to CIW[edit | edit source]
An explanation for CIW’s victory is best understood using modern social movement theory. By exploring different theories on social movement, one may come to a plausible, in depth explanations for the rise and succession of migrant uprisings such as CIW. In its basic form, as professors of Political Science Sarah L. Henderson and Alana S. Jeydel describe, a social movement is “A group of people with a common interest who work together either to change a policy of government and/or to change how society perceives something” (44). Social movements emerge for three reasons, explained by the psychological model, the political process/political opportunity model, and the resource mobilization model (Henderson and Jeydel 44).
Psychological Model[edit | edit source]
The emergence of CIW as a social movement can be explained by understanding the psychological model, stating movements stem from societies’ reactions to a large disturbance in everyday life (Henderson and Jeydel 44). As a result, movements will form based on societies’ psychological reactions to disruptions in order to return life to a relatively normal state. Incidents at the root of the psychological model include famines, war, or economic depressions (44). For example, many workers’ movements erupted as the great economic depression spread worldwide in the early twentieth century. More applicable to CIW’s cases study is a look at a theory within the psychological model clarifying why workers specifically in Immokalee rose up in protest. The relative deprivation theory “pertains to disadvantaged groups responding to groups that are more advantaged” (Taylor 120). From the point of view of workers in Immokalee, people across the United States were enjoying better lifestyles that they were equally entitled to.
The psychological explanation for CIW’s emergence highlights workers’ deprivation in Immokalee and across the United States. In 2001, three out of five agricultural workers in the United States were living in poverty (Brabant, BBC). Further, migrant agricultural workers across the country held little opportunity to better their situation because of social and political forces giving more power to their employer. Without being monitored, no force could stop employers exploiting their workers. Respected news agencies such as British Broadcasting Company (BBC) and National Geographic conducted investigations in Immokalee’s agricultural community before the success of CIW. The agencies discovered frequent physical and mental abuse of workers, as well as financial manipulation.
Migrant laborers experienced work and living conditions well below poverty level in Immokalee, Florida. However, despite the stifling lifestyle, migrant workers were kept from speaking up on their poor conditions due to many factors. Laborers were kept by force because they were unable to pay off smuggling fees due to high living costs and low wages (Scher-Zagier). Many workers in Immokalee incurred this debt before coming into the United States. Many migrants who enter the United States, including in Immokalee, are already in debt upon arrival to a smuggler assisting individuals into the country. Aside from smuggling fees, many accounts report recruiters offering workers cocaine before luring them to isolated camps (CIW). Laborers then struggle in repaying their smuggling debt, a drug addiction, as well as earn enough money for everyday necessities such as food and shelter. As long as an individual owes money, that person is obliged to continue working until their debt is repaid.
CIW members were experiencing especially impoverished living conditions and wages. In Florida, for example, laborers earn the same fare, forty-cents per bucket, as workers in 1980, making it twice as hard as twenty years ago to earn the minimum wage. In a good month, workers report to each make less than $1,000 (Lush). At the end of the week, little is left to send home to live on.
Besides low wages, living conditions were especially meager for CIW members, often hazardous to one’s health. Workers usually live together in trailer parks and pay an over-priced fee (Worldservice, BBC). Tamara Lush, a reporter from the second largest newspaper in Florida, the St. Petersburg Times, investigated the substandard living situations in the labor camps. Lush observed travel trailers and concrete dorm housing furnished with van seats as couches, and noticed some did not even contain a toilet. On top of the meager conditions, Lush also witnessed black mold in some of the trailers. As many as 12-men lived in such conditions that, in particular to Lush’s visit, rented for $350-per week (Lush). In the case of illness, the only health care available was over-thecounter drugs afforded after paying living expenses, if any remained. Laura Germino, who works for CIW, shared similar reports in an interview with BBC. "You pick all day long, as much as you can for 40 cents a bucket…and then you get home and have to wait in line for the burners, wait in line to eat, wait in line for a shower, and then you sleep in this hot tin box”(Germino).
Yet another report by Alan Scher-Zagier of the Boston Globe, again uncovered inhumane conditions during his investigation of Florida’s agricultural business. Before CIW’s victory in 2004, his investigation revealed forced labor and armed guards stationed among laborers in the field. They frequently beat workers, according to a field worker with whom Scher-Zagier spoke. This particular laborer was able to be interviewed because she eventually managed to escape the slave-like conditions. Laborers faced verbal as well as physical abuse in the fields. Through NPR interviews and Immokalee members’ testimony, physical and mental abuse has come to light, and reportedly is in retaliation for such blameless acts as needing to use the restroom or wanting a lunch or water break. In addition, the overseer simply demands faster/harder work from their laborers (Zwerdling and CIW).
Laborers in Immokalee experienced inhumane working and living conditions common among agricultural workers across the United States. However, this particular community found strength together. Weekly meetings soon formed with a simple purpose, and the success of CIW against Taco Bell steadily followed. The relative deprivation theory explains migrants’ desire to improve their conditions in Immokalee; Members of CIW were first motivated to join together in 1993 after recognizing a better lifestyle lived by the rest of America. However, this theory does not explain their success. Simply beginning a movement does not automatically result in its victory. Can the second model, the political process/political opportunity model help others understand how they accomplished so much?
Political Opportunity Model[edit | edit source]
The political opportunity model applied to CIW explains their successful establishment as a social movement. They accomplished this partly by relying on a favorable political environment, as well as leaders and resources within the political structure (Henderson and Jeydel 44). In a broad sense, the model encompasses “the general structure of political institutions, formal and informal procedures of governing, and the configuration of power in the broad sense of the nature and power of political parties and interest groups” (Duyvendak). Therefore, this model suggests that social movements must not only work within the political structure, but special efforts must be made to counter procedures and powers that work against one’s cause. Compared to other world government systems, the American democratic system inadvertently fosters a relatively large amount of strong interest groups backed by powerful financial resources that play a large role in supporting movements in the political process/political opportunity model. This unfortunately creates an unfair advantage for social movements with little funds, or no connections to key government officials affecting legislation. However, the political process/political opportunity model is able to bring miraculous results for the fortunate groups who succeed in collaborating with these large, powerful networks (Henderson and Jeydel 44). In the case of CIW’s success, certain political allies may have advanced their cause. Congress-men and women, including California’s Barbara Lee, Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, and finally John Lewis of Georgia have all claimed to be official supporters of CIW as their success grew (Coalition).
Despite these political allies, no major legislation offered support to workers in Immokalee. In fact, CIW likely experienced more political processes working against their cause than in their favor. Consider this example involving many key players in Florida’s agricultural business. In 2005, the same year of CIW’s victory over Taco Bell, a new coalition involving several prominent figures in Florida formed, including the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, or the FFVA (Zeitlin). Unfortunately, FFVA’s board committee has recently fallen under harsh scrutiny after a crewleader hired by one of FFVA’s member was sentenced to 30 years in prison for keeping his workers in what federal prosecutors called "a form of servitude"(Zeitlin). Not only does this example undermine much of what FFVA stands for, but demonstrates the complicated nature and difficulty helping to improve the nature of agricultural workers’ rights. This specific prosecution was the second major sentencing based on slave-like conditions. However, because this particular case, as well as the first major punishments penalizing crewleaders came after CIW’s emergence and campaign began, one may safely infer that politics within the state of Florida have been condoning such unethical behavior for an unknown amount of time now. In this case, the same institution supposedly helping immigrant communities’ were actually part of the problem.
Fortunately for CIW, one opportunity considered both political and social, has been embedded in American culture since the 18th century, a code valuing human rights. First decreed in the Bill of Rights in 1776, the notion states “ that all man are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” (Hamilton 528). What the founding fathers considered basic human rights in 1776 are part of a strong a legacy carried on by Americans today. CIW used Americans’ sympathy for those seeking basic human rights to their advantage. In 2001, the organization declared their struggle not only against Taco Bell, but a quest for human rights agricultural workers in an Anti-slavery campaign (CIW). This allows the majority of Americans to identify with their struggle. By choosing a campaign that targets slavery and human rights, the issue may be viewed as dealing with basic civil rights issues, rather than a highly controversial one such as immigration. However, aside from a common belief, the Political Opportunity Model cannot fully explain the success of Immokalee’s coalition.
Without CIW’s help, the violations occurring on Johns’ farm would not have been discovered. There is clearly another force in effect that worked to CIW’s advantage for which the psychological model and political process/political opportunity model do not account. Fortunately, the resource mobilization model offers a logical explanation as to how CIW rose to triumph over Taco Bell.
Resource Mobilization Model[edit | edit source]
The resource mobilization model explains that movements would not commence nor be successful without the aid of certain political, social, and economical components already in place (Henderson and Jeydel 47). Depending on movements’ base or stance, empathetic networks may be built in order to promote their cause by collaborating with groups of similar goals. This collaboration often provides endless networking opportunities. For example, the American Baptist Church is a network already connected to many political and economical resources nation-wide. Growing social movements would find this organization extremely beneficial for their resources and networks already established across America. Corporations also play a large role behind resource mobilization, often providing leadership and valuable resources for smaller groups (Henderson et al. 47.) Needless to say, when the larger and more powerful allies are speedily pulled together for a particular social movement, its success is more likely to evolve.
Important concepts of every social movement such as leadership, purpose, and tactics also played a vital role in CIW’s success. These must first be understood in order to comprehend their fundamental role as the resource mobilization model is applied CIW’s accomplishment.
The emergence and success of social movements rest heavily upon its leadership. In the interest of their members, organizers should understand different theories and tactics behind successful movements in order to discover the precise combination that produces motivated members and positive results (Klandermans et al. 520). History has made it clear that if one is successful as a leader, his or her movement is more likely to succeed. Great leaders, such as César Chávez, are often dynamic speakers who relate with their supporters. He exemplified a thriving leader who devoted much of his life to a cause, and consistently set an example by stepping up first at a march or leading a fast in protest.
Another important concept is the importance of tactics exercised by each social movement. One such tactic vital to any movement involves framing one’s position. This tactic allows leaders to shape how society, media, and politics all look at the idea, allowing for certain interpretations and ruling others (McAdam et al. 205). Strikes, protests, boycotts of products and services, marches, petitioning, advertisements, rallies, and demonstrations are more common tactics used by social movements. They further involve consideration of location, culture, and resources available. Movements must consider who they want to reach out to, how many, and if these people are everyday citizens or powerful political stakeholders (Klandermans et al. 520). Tactics thus play an important role in determining the likelihood of one’s success. Writing to the president of the United States is less likely to see results than reaching out to neighbors or community leaders. Depending on the cause, each tactic or a combination of different ones will produce varying results.
Finally, defining a purpose for any movement is vital in determining who the actors and key players will be, as well as who this new collective action will be fighting against. Most importantly, purpose ties together all of a movement’s actors with a shared identity, adding to its strength and longevity (Klandermans et al. 520). This is extremely important for social movements because they are comprised of so many components, from single individuals, to national and even international institutions. The purpose thus enables individuals to feel as though they are one with the largest of organizations forming a single, compatible movement (Diani et al.). The purpose must be defined in such a way that it is narrow enough to direct action for the same clear purpose nationwide, but broad enough to gather the greatest number of supporters. Charitable organizations helping ill or helpless children are excellent examples of movements with successful purposes. Because so many elements determining the success of a movement stem from its purpose, it must be clearly and carefully stated with each aspect in mind. Together, the resource mobilization theory and key aspects of social movements all account for CIW’s great deal of momentum and power used to defeat Taco Bell.
After forming into a coalition, skilled leadership and purpose worked together in developing a strong foundation for a capable, motivated organization in Immokalee. CIW employed a unique combination of outreach and worker-to-worker counseling in order to foster a strong leadership base in Immokalee (Coalition). Because most of the members (roughly 80-85%) are not permanent, the center educates every member to be a leader in order to promote teamwork, community action, and improvement of individuals’ lives. This empowers a shifting demographic to continually pursue CIW quests. According to CIW, the most effective weapon against forced labor is “an aware worker community engaged in the defense of its own labor rights” (Coalition).
For a small organization, CIW required clever tactics in order to rise above the power of such a large corporation. The group framed their position so America focused onto the loss of human rights and the continuation of the practice of human slavery. Onlookers thus felt sympathy for the exploited group. The beginning of their campaign also focused on local protests, strikes, demonstrations, as well as community outreach. Locally, workers demonstrated in Taco Ball restaurants and exercised work stoppages (Coalition).
As their campaign progressed, tactics such as hunger strikes and protest marches were taken to the YUM! and Taco Bell headquarters. Major events included a 10-day hunger strike outside of Taco Bell headquarters, with the support of more than 75 students and farmworkers fasting for a 10-day period in 2003. According to the Coalition, this strike “was one of the largest hunger strikes in US labor history, galvanizing the support of national religious, labor, and student organizations and thousands of individuals” (Coalition). Cross country tours took place in 2004 and 2005, and featured protests in Louisville, KY, and Irvine, CA.
Another aspect of social movements involves the purpose of an organization. Originally, CIW’s objective worked together to better their community and lives. This broad goal was improved in 2001 to a campaign fighting for human rights for agricultural workers, as well as an end to a new-age slave labor workers were being subject to (Coalition). This new identity vastly expanded an empathetic base of support. In terms of identity, the new purpose acted as a tactic in order to attract leaders and citizens all across the United States fighting for human rights as well.
Creating a common identity is an essential step for many social movements, and played a vital role in CIWs campaign as well. By the end of their campaign, different groups and individuals found themselves linked to CIW’s cause by common values, interests, or similar historical backgrounds (Porta, 113). One prominent aspect of their identity involves their ethnic roots. About 90% claim to be of Latin American descent (Coalition). In addition to CIW members, the Latin American community across the U.S. provides further support because of their shared identity. The ASPIRA Association, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), National Council of La Raza (NCLR), and SER – Jobs for Progress National, are just a few associations working to better the lives of residents in the United States with Latin American roots. CIW also identifies as an agricultural community. According to their website, the majority are seasonal workers, traveling up and down the East Coast following ripe crops (Coalition). This affiliation not only involves them with agricultural workers nationwide, but also with Union members, as their goals seek to one day have the ability to form unions.
With the concept of shared identity in mind, CIW’s fight can be connected to the labor movement’s struggle to unionize throughout history and the world. In their situation, Immokalee residents had little power to put a stop to the slave labor and abuse at the risk of losing their only source of income. Today, American students are told of similar situations as they learn about early industrialism and the victorious campaigns by workers for their basic right to gather and eventually unionize in hopes of some job security and fair treatment. At the time of the industrial revolution and even today, labor issues involve a degree of human rights, aiming to satisfy what Americans consider our basic right to life, liberty and happiness. CIW’s quest to end slave labor involves a similar desire to have the ability to unionize.
A large majority of Americans are able to identify with CIW’s struggle for basic rights. Students, agricultural workers, Latin Americans, as well as the many others who fought for the right to unionize and sympathize with the right for human rights are a few who understand. The push for human rights and ability to identify as one collective group resulted in a common ground for two of their largest allies in their fight; student activist groups and support from American church networks.
With a shared identity and strong leadership, CIW incorporated highly effective tactics in their local community protesting Taco Bell’s connection to modern day slavery and human rights abuse. Both opportunistic tactics however were not the most important aspects to their fight. An explanation lies in the final social movement theory. The overwhelming momentum and success that CIW experienced can be traced through new networks and resources they acquired as their campaign grew, a model reflecting what Professors Henderson and Jeydel refer to as the recourse mobilization theory. In CIW’s case, the media, student, and religious networks served as powerful allies in spreading their message and furthering their cause.
Before the community earned international attention, CIW first proved themselves as an outstanding, capable social movement breaking important barriers. Immokalee’s community first took advantage of community networking and citizens’ ability to perform their own inquiries into laborers’ situations. After two years of investigation by escaped workers and CIW members, the coalition reached out to the Department of Justice in 1997 regarding two particular agricultural employers within Immokalee. After CIW led D.O.J. officials to the culprits, the federal officials found the crew-leaders had held over 400 men and women in debt bondage and harsh conditions in Florida and South Carolina (Zagier). The workers, mostly indigenous Mexicans and Guatemalans, were forced to work 10-12 hour days, 6 days per week, for as little as $20 per week, under the constant watch of armed guards. Those who attempted escape were assaulted, pistol22 whipped, and even shot. The guilty men were sentenced to 15 years each in federal prison for slavery, extortion, and firearms charges (Zagier).
As of April 2001, their combined tactical efforts using local leadership, hunger strikes, sit-ins, boycotts, marches, and even dangerous under-cover investigating by workers resulted in the discovery and prosecution of several employers for organizing slavery, as well as a slight pay raise in a few regional farms (Coalition). Their action and accomplishments led CIW to their first major network, the media. Extensive attention from news organizations such as National Public Radio (NPR), The Cable News Network (CNN), National Geographic, and The New York Times, as well as numerous Associated Press reports and local news agencies across the U.S. began spreading CIW’s name and purpose. Even across the Atlantic, London’s British Broadcasting Company included the Immokalee workers in their report on the labor incidence of trafficking in nations around the world, such as France, the U.K, and North America.
The media attention largely assisted in bringing CIW’s cause to the awareness of their second large network, that of student activists across the nation. As Daniel Zwerdling of NPR noted, “students across the country had already been protesting sweatshops overseas. The Taco Bell boycott gave them a human rights issue right here at home.” Provoking students further involved Taco Bell’s press release entitled ‘The New Age of Hedonism,’ offending youth aged 18–24. It claimed the group to be self-indulgent, demanding, and that “they have become addicted to constant stimulation and actually feel bored unless their insatiable demand for novelty is being satisfied” (Zwerdling). The press release provoked students to strike against Taco Bell not only for human rights, but to also prove they cared for more than self-satisfaction and indulgences (Zwerdling). Throughout the campaign it is estimated that students in as many as 300 colleges and universities and more than 50 high schools participated in the boycott. Also, students helped either close or block the chain's restaurants on 22 campuses such as the University of Chicago, UCLA, Duke, and universities in Texas (Smith). Like workers in Immokalee, students staged sit-ins, as well as boycotted local Taco Bells on and off campus (Zwerdling).
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers formed their third major network with Americans attending Church, thanks in a large part to their campaign for human rights. In 2002, the Presbyterian Church USA, who had not supported a protest since 1979, teamed up across the nation with The National Council of Churches, which represents 45 million Christians and the United Methodist Church among others, to support the Immokalee workers’ fight against Taco Bell (Zwerdling). Religious groups helped discuss and organize further support for CIW’s campaign with financial and social contributions.
One example of the Church’s influence took place near YUM! brand world headquarters. In Louisville, Kentucky, Reverend Cindy Weber triggered bad publicity for against YUM! in local press (Zwerdling). Shortly following the incident, the multibillion dollar corporation extended a check to the Reverend for $527 for her church’s food drive. It had been the first time YUM! had ever extended financial support to Webber’s group. Feeling hypocritical by accepting any money from a company she had been protesting, Webber promptly passed the entire amount on to CIW to aid in their campaign (Zwerdling).
As the media, church, and student activist resources gained momentum for CIW’s human rights campaign, a domino effect ensued, accumulating more and more resources and networks. CIW’s pressure against Taco Bell had become a strong national cause that attracted additional allies from labor organization networks, grass-roots human rights campaigns, and powerful national figures all within three years. The combined efforts of these vast networks and powerful resources spurred on the momentum and support against slave labor.
For example, the American Federation of Labor and Congress for Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) served as an extremely strong resource for Immokalee, reaching union sympathizers across the nation (WIDES-MUNOZ). Charlie Sheen and Tom Morello, former guitarist for Rage Against the Machine have also acted as spokesmen promoting CIW’s cause (Coalition). Former US President, Nobel Laureate, and founder of the Carter Center for Peace, Jimmy Carter, has joined and worked closely with CIW in their anti-slavery campaigns (Coalition). The National Immigration and Law Center in Oakland and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco are among the many partner agencies advocating for CIW nation-wide.
By March 2005, pressure on Taco Bell from students, churches, and many other networks across the country had never been greater. On the fifth of the same month, as the coalition organized one of their largest strikes outside of YUM! headquarters, company executives agreed to meet the demands of CIW. The company promised to work with CIW in order to improve wages and working conditions for Florida tomato pickers. Emil Brolick, Taco Bell president, recognized that "Florida tomato workers do not enjoy the same rights and conditions as employees in other industries, and there is a need for reform,” and added that although his corporation is not able to change the entire industry, they would be willing to take a leadership role and set a new standard for social responsibility for agricultural workers (YUM!). Worldwide recognition added even more respect and esteem to CIW’s campaign.
In 2003, three CIW members received international commendations, boosting the group’s economic and social support. The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights award was presented in November 2003 to Romeo Ramirez, Lucas Benitez, and Julia Gabriel, all volunteers with CIW who played vital roles in their campaign for human rights in the United States.
The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is an award that has never before been bestowed upon an American individual or organization. Historically, the grant is awarded to people from locations such as Haiti or Liberia, where human rights violations occur more often. Ramirez, a native Guatemalan, never expected to become a federal informant one day for the United States government. However, his testimony and work with CIW helped put away three illegal agricultural employers abusing their workers. Benitez, a co-founder of CIW, serves as a leader in CIW (Lush). Gabriel was once a slave that CIW fought so hard to free. She finally escaped and helped bring down the employer guilty of her enslavement among many other workers (Scher-Zagier). Each member was awarded $30,000 to be used towards the Coalition of Immokalee Worker’s fight against Taco Bell.
The agreement with Yum Brands won't change the fact that workers often fail to receive the same legal rights and benefits granted to other U.S. laborers. Unfortunately, the agreement will affect only a few thousand pickers around Immokalee, out of almost 2 million fieldworkers across the country.
However, small, important changes have transpired that give hope for a more worldwide change. The company is helping enforce a new penny-per-pound increase to nearly 1,000 workers who harvest tomatoes for their suppliers. That marks about a 75 percent increase over the usual rate of 1.3 cents per pound (Smith). Les Smith, of the Orlando Sentinel, on of Southwest Florida’s largest newspapers, best sums up the most important change resulting from YUM!’s agreement, by explaining that “more importantly, the fast-food chain's parent company agreed to lead an industrywide effort to provide greater protections for migrant workers, who are excluded from many of the legal rights and benefits given other laborers in the U.S.” (Smith). One of the previously poorest groups in the nation now has strong networks and resources helping continue their legacy for agricultural workers. "The real significance of this agreement lies in the promise it holds for much greater change in the future," said coalition co-founder Lucas Benitez in comments posted on the organization's Web site.
After exploring an immigrant movement in the United States, France provides an interesting contrast. In France, immigration has proven a contentious issue for decades, but they have failed to generate similar movements because of political and social restraints embedded in French culture. The following section will attempt to explain the opposing forces and issues facing the migrant community in France.
Introduction to French History and Culture[edit | edit source]
Waves of violence, burning vehicles, and attacks on government officials overtook Paris and its suburbs at the end of 2005. What was the underlying cause and final spark that provoked such violence? The answer can be attributed to a number of factors dealing with an anti-discrimination movement that has been slowly accumulating momentum in France for decades. What triggered the sudden outburst of violence however, was the electrification of two teens in a poor suburb largely populated by North African immigrants and their French-born descendants.
For years, Arab and black African communities in France have endured discrimination based on their ethnicity. Small steps are now being taken toward improvement. Protests, rallies, and more recently, public councils representing smaller minority groups have formed in the fight against discrimination. Through new-found resources, minority groups are making way to overcome institutionalized and societal discrimination in France.
By understanding the latest trend of French immigration, one may better comprehend where contemporary segregation originates. Then, by applying the different models of social movements, the psychological model, the resource mobilization model, and the political process/political opportunity model, France’s absence of a forceful migrant social movement is explained.
The most recent influx of immigrants in France occurred from 1954-1973. French society recognizes this post-WWII time period as the ‘Trente Glorieuses’ (Thirty Glorious Years), in which the country led Europe in economic growth (PBS). The peace and success following WWII made possible friendly cooperation between France and its then colony Algeria. This resulted in the transportation of thousands of Algerian citizens north to fill France’s growing need of industrial workers (Gamory). Other sources behind the increase in immigrants into France include liberation after the war and decolonialization of African colonies (Hamilton). Since the 1950s, the majority of African migrants entering France originate from either Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, the Western Sahara, or West Africa. Collectively, the region is known as the ‘Maghreb,’ and its descendants ‘Maghrebians’ (Afro-Asiatic languages). It is estimated that immigrants made up three percent of France’s population 2005, and are in their third generation since the 1950s (Gamory). The majority are French-born children of Maghrebian immigrants are known as ‘Beurs’ (Bryant). Descendants may carry similar cultural and physical attributes as their immigrant grandparents so that to the whitemajority in France, the third-generation appears as recent immigrants. Similar appearance and progressive cultural inequality has produced a troubled generation of Arab and black Africans in France.
Over the past three decades, France has perpetuated an unfriendly climate against immigration. Recent political debate has intensified legislative acts and measures targeting immigrants, resulting in an extremely unfriendly political environment. The Pasqua Laws of 1993 put in place regulations restricting the amount and type of immigrants entering France (Hamilton). Families separated by borders were forced to wait longer for reunification. Foreign graduates could no longer accept French employment. The police obtained an increase in power in order to deport foreigners, and the opportunity to appeal asylum rejections were terminated (Hamilton).
Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder and leaders of the National Front, used the strong anti-immigrant sentiment in the 1990s to build support and maintain momentum for the anti-immigrant legislation. In 2002, Le Pen won 16.86% of France’s vote during the presidential primaries. Later in 2005, when France geared up to vote for or against the European Union Constitution, issues such as immigration and border security were at the center of much debate. Ultimately, France’s final vote was a rejection of the European Constitution.
A good deal of French discussion preceding voting day resembled a xenophobic citizenry wanting to close their borders in order to protect their culture and lifestyle (Gamory). For example, in order to dissuade non-French speaking cultures from arranged marriages, new laws were proposed in 2005 that would increase the legal age for marriage to 18 for both sexes in France. Previous law allowed women as young as 15 to marry with parental signature (Gamory). These strong anti-immigrant actions present in French politics attests to the resilience of anti-immigrant sentiment still active within the political system.
Social Movement Theory Applied to France[edit | edit source]
The psychological model highlights a reaction to racial discrimination in Arab and black African descendants. In this minority group, experiencing bias on an everyday basis results in a growing social movement. Though historically, no government office has been able to make it official, racial prejudice prevents the group from leading normal jobs or residing in average residences like the majority of French citizens (Gamory). The suburban riots were just one such incident of action motivated by racial discrimination. Instead of the psychological model, the growing movement for equality in France is better understood by examining the resource mobilization model and political opportunities model.
The resource mobilization model sheds some light on the growth of an antidiscrimination movement in France. As previously mentioned, the model suggests movements cannot commence nor be successful without the aid of certain political, social, and economic components already in place. To an extent, some ties have furthered movements already in France, such as Unions and communities working together. For Arab and black African descendent however, only recently has a national association gained strength. Formed in late 2005, the Representative Council of Black Organizations (CRAN) is the only national black lobbying organization in France (Sachs). Its formation resulted from the immediacy, momentum, and a high public profile that took pace after the 2005 riots in suburbs populated largely by the families of African and Arab immigrants (Sachs). Similar to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida, CRAN took its inspiration from an American resource, the NAACP, whom CRAN is using to duplicate as an ideal organization. Also similar to CIW, as one of CRAN’s leaders reported, “The group has also issued regular calls for protests - against a television host who insulted Africans, against the way one French dictionary defines colonialism and against laws prohibiting the collection of racial and ethnic statistics” (Sachs). In August 2006, CRAN invited Edgar Chase III, a black business professor at Dillard University in New Orleans, to speak about the role of education in achieving racial equality. The meeting reportedly turned into a strategizing session with ideas such as, “We should be boycotting companies that don't hire enough blacks. In the U.S., big companies felt it was in their interest commercially to not be racist” (Sachs). Since its creation, CRAN diligently continues to mobilize resources and grassroots network across the country through the more than 130 local black civic associations that already make up its membership.
On the whole, the anti-discrimination movement in France suffers not from a lack of resources or motivation, but of political structure and cultural resistance inhibiting progress. This is best explained by the political opportunity model.
Why Has France Not Produced A Social Movement?[edit | edit source]
Jan Willem Duyvendak, Professor of Sociology at the University of Amsterdam and director of the Verwey-Jonker Institute of Social Science Research in Utrecht suggests the reason for France’s lagging social movement, rests in the political opportunities model. The many entities in France working to overcome discrimination must also formulate their strategies not only with reference to France’s political opportunity structure “but also with regard to the specific mix of repression, facilitations, and chances of operating successfully within that structure,” (Duyvendak). However, in France’s case, many political processes have been used inadvertently, as well as intentionally, against immigrants. Beginning in the 1970s in France, factors such as limited jobs, a disconnected polity, and the shift in political leadership with an antiimmigrant agenda, have together created a hostile political environment within the French government structure and processes that immigrants must overcome to fight discrimination.
The end of the glorious years left French society turning against incoming immigrants. Due to an economic crisis in 1974 and the entrance of large amounts of women into the labor force, competition for jobs skyrocketed. In 1999, unemployment in France rose to 11% (CIA). More recently in 2005, The Ouest de France newspaper serving Angers and Segré conducted a survey two weeks before the French people voted on whether or not to approve a European constitution referendum. In response to the paper’s question asking participants their greatest fear for France, unemployment came up as constituents’ greatest fear for 37% of those surveyed. The security of France surface as second most common fear at 30% of those questioned (Ouest 22 of April). The competition for jobs has led to a shift in social attitude toward immigrants who were viewed as taking jobs that belonged to the French (Hamilton).
It can be argued that the French government’s inadequate attention for assimilation is partially responsible for a socially divided people. Written into French society is a colorblind code for assimilation that has failed to successfully incorporate the thousands of immigrants into French culture, leading to an uninformed, divided society (Sachs). ‘La laïcité,’ or secularity, took root in French institutions through a 1905 law that separates the church and state. As written, “The Republic (France) does not recognize, neither pay nor subsidize worship” (Commission de reflexion). This drive for secularism has come to cultivate a disregard for diversity within government systems and inhibit any measurements of society that may prove discrimination. Census-takers and other government statisticians are legally prohibited from compiling figures based on religion or race, nor may they collect information about heritage beyond asking for the birthplace of a person's parents (Sachs). As a result, the nation is unaware of the number of immigrants in their borders. Without knowing who needs what type of assistance to assimilate, how may groups be integrated? A measure of immigrants’ status relative to the majority is important, yet difficult to determine (Bryant). There is some evidence of discrimination from the government agency handling complaints in France though. The organization reports that 40 percent of their cases involved discrimination on the basis of race or national origin (Sachs). The government, particularly in the past few years, acknowledges that there is discrimination in the job market and a lack of diversity in media and other institutions (Sachs).
Housing situations in the suburbs inadvertently hinder efforts of cultural integration, and are also a result of government planning. ‘Banlieus’ are usually less wealthy, isolated housing developments outside of major French cities (Gamory). They also tend to act as points of concentrated immigrant communities. In their defense, the government planned banlieus provide some social resources for movements to join together by directing citizens in one district. However, banlieus have come to be associated in France with violence and unemployment (Gamory). Their out-of-the-way location often results in ‘communautorisme,’ living in a closed community with strict rules (Gamory). They are also associated with religious issues in France.
Communautorism groups live more by their traditional societal rules. A recent phenomena resulting from communautorism involves the third generation of Arab and black African descendents returning to strict traditional customs that require women to wear a head veil. In 2004 for the first time, the French government made an exception to its strict secular regulations and paid for private tutoring of women who refused to take their veils off in public school (Gamory). Thus, building excluded communities has had an effect on minorities for recognition of cultural differences. However, only three women were helped in an extremely drawn-out, controversial French case. In comparison to three percent of the French population, communautorism fostered by government housing has on the whole isolated targets of discrimination. Without government assimilation programs, the regions further inhibit integration in France.
Another point countering anti-discrimination movements is a political climate accustomed to frequent strikes. Concentrated in the spring months every year, different strikes involving varying protesting groups from students to bus drivers erupt throughout the country (Gamory). For example, Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter in 2005, found the French strikes in full swing. State workers including bus drivers, teachers and even students, filled the streets or remained absent from work in protest of their assorted goals. Specifically in 2005, 22% of state employed teachers and 1,500 citizens in eight of the larger cities participated in the strike (Ouest, May 18). Strikes taking place throughout the year are included in television news and newspapers as they occur. One may imagine an atmosphere rich in social activism in France could cultivate more experienced and successful social movements. It may be argued however, that in the case of France, habitually being exposed and practicing strikes have decreased their values as an effective tool for public protest and influence.
The growing movement against discrimination in France has a long road yet to travel. Laws regarding immigration restrictions have only increased after the nation fell into an economic crisis. However, without successful assimilation incorporated in government processes and powers, immigrants and their families will continue to be viewed as non-citizens. Treated this way, the immigrant community will continuously be motivated to fight for a life as a normal French citizen.
Conclusion[edit | edit source]
Much can be learned from the migrant movements in both France and United States. Examining CIW’s case in Florida reveals the importance of networking and communities in forming and continuing a social movement. The Immokalee workers succeeded in a large part due to the shared national value of basic human rights. Also, without larger, established organizations aiding the small group, CIW’s campaign would not have gained momentum so rapidly and successfully.
After examining CIW’s success, a look into France’s lack of a movement reveals the importance of comprehending a nation’s culture. Their political, social, and economic history have dramatically influenced modern society. Will the country be able to come to terms with their situation, that they have cultivated a hostile political and social environment that suppresses efforts to balance equality for millions of human lives? Discrimination is only recently being officially recognized, but as recognition is becoming possible, so is a solution and the formation of a movement to support the fight against racial bias.
Hope for France not only lies in the growing support of CRAN and its networks, but politics as well. The New York Times reporter Elaine Sciolino has uncovered a promising new phenomenon in France’s 2007 campaign for president, commenting that “for the first time in French presidential electoral politics, the vote of the alienated and disadvantaged ethnic Arab and black African citizens may be a factor” (Sciolino). With future cooperation from political resources, networking, and examples from across the Atlantic in Florida, France may bear witness to its own migrant social movement very soon.
These examples of overcoming forceful inhumane treatment may even motivate other regions. Understanding social movements can better empower similarly oppressed immigrant communities to use CIW’s and France’s struggle as inspiration for a transformation within their own populations in other parts of the globe.
"Afro-Asiatic languages." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 1 Mar. 2007 http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9109799
Bahadur, Gaiutra. “Border worries reach from Mexico to Phila.: Local group joins illegal-immigrant watch.” The Philadelphia Inquirer. March 27, 2006. Feb. 2007. http://0web.lexisnexis.com.oasis.oregonstate.edu/universe/document?_m=1b4b58 22fd35ee997befeb66e126b8ef&_docnum=9&wchp=dGLbVtbzSkVA&_md5=24 17729211253ab3e162fbdd48534c36
Bryant, Elizabeth. “French blacks: J'accuse racism; Poll's findings, documentary spark debate.” The Washington Times. Pg. A01. 7 Feb. 2007. 27 Feb. 2007. http://0web.lexisnexis.com.oasis.oregonstate.edu/universe/document?_m=a53404 b2f39651dd6c94d56ec47f55e6&_docnum=2&wchp=dGLzVlzzSkVA&_ md5=0e989a09f7ceddfc5b25171543066bf2
CIA World Fact Book. “France-Unemployment.” Jan. 2005. Feb. 2007. https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/fr.html#Econ
Clark, Nicola. “Plans by Airbus to Eliminate Jobs and Shed Plants Set Off Labor Protests.” New York Times Online. 1 March 2007. 1 March 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/01/business/worldbusiness/01airbus.html?_r=1 &oref=slogin
Commission de reflexion: sur l’application du principe de laïcité dans la republique. Rapport au president de la republique. Trans. Janine Claysmith. 11 Dec. 2003. Feb. 2007. http://www.lesrapports.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/BRP/034000725/0000.pdf
Diani, Mario and Bison, Ivano 2004: Organization, Coalitions, and Movements: Theory and Society. New York : Oxford University Press, 2003.
Donatella Della Porta and Mario Diani. Social Movements: An Introduction. Second Edition. Blackwell Publishing. 2006. MA.
Duyvendak, Jan Willem. The Power of Politics: New Social Movements in France. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995. p251.
Front National. “Le FN: historique.” Feb. 2007. http://www.frontnational.com/historique.php
Gamory, Florence. Class lecture notes: Etude socioculturelle. 17 March 2005.
Garay, Anabelle. “Texas city sued over anti-immigration l aw.” Associated Press Worldstream. Dec. 26 2006. Jan. 2007 . http://0web.lexisnexis.com.oasis.oregonstate.edu/universe/document?_m=0bb96f718e88 ded6fbfd2833e907c5db&_docnum=5&wchp=dGLbVtbzSkVb&_md5=04856420 cfd4ba6c73f1c3b136ce8bfd
Germino, Laura. “Human Trafficking: The destination.” Global Crime Reports, BBC. 2005. Nov. 2006. http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/programmes/global_crime_report/investigatio n/destination1.shtml
Hamilton, Alexander, Madison, James, and Jay, John. The Federalist Papers. Ed. Rossiter, Clinton. New York: New American Library, 2003.
Hamilton, Kimberly. The Challenge of French Diversity. Migration Policy Institute. 2006. Feb. 2007. http://www.migrationinformation.org/Profiles/display.cfm?id=266
Klandermans, Bert, and Oegema, Dirk. “Potentials, networks, motivations, and barriers: steps towards participation in social movements.” American Sociological Review, Vol. 52. p. 519-531. Aug. 1987. McAdam, Doug, McCarthy John D., and Zald, Mayer N. Comparative Perspectives on
Social Movements. Cambridge University Press: New York, 1996. PBS. “France.” Feb. 2007. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/commandingheights/lo/countries/fr/fr_overview.html
Sachs, Susan. “In officially colorblind France, blacks have a dream - and now a lobby.” Christian Science Monitor. Pg. 1. January 12, 2007. http://0web.lexisnexis.com.oasis.oregonstate.edu/universe/document?_m=e20cf64 2e841f57fbcb3f2b99f0e019d&_docnum=12&wchp=dGLzVzzzSkVA&_ md5=866467dd403fe3e0344d9473642c752c
Sciolino, Elaine. “As Voter Registration Soars, French Presidential Candidates Woo Troubled Suburbs.” The New York Times. 28 Feb. 2007. 8 March 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/28/world/europe/28france.html?_r=1&oref=slo gin
Smith, Wes. “Group championing migrants take aim at fast-food chains.” Orlando Sentinel. 13 June 2005. Oct. 2006. “State of emergency' changes the border political fight.” USA Today. Aug. 2005. Feb. 2007. http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-08-30-borderemergency_ x.htm
Taylor, Donald M. and Moghaddam, Fathali M. Theories of Intergroup Relations: International Social Psychological Perspectives. 2nd Ed. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1994.
U.S. Senate. HR 4437. Clerk: Karen L. Haas. 109th Congress, 2nd Session. http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgibin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=109_cong_bills&doci d=f:h4437rfs.txt.pdf
WIDES-MUNOZ, Laura. “Farmworkers fight McDonald’s in publicity war over workers’ wages.” Associated Press. 5 May 2005. Oct. 2006. http://www.centredaily.com/business/14510342.htm YUM! “About YUM! Brand Foods.” 2007. Feb. 2007. http://www.yum.com/about/default.asp
Zagier, Alan Scher. “Laborers-turned-activists win RFK human rights award.” The Boston Globe. Nov. 19 2003. Nov. 2006. http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2003/11/19/laborers_turned_activists _win_rfk_human_rights_award/
Zeitlin, Janine. “Farm labor Camp Crew Leader sentenced to 30 years in Florida Servitude Case.” Miami Independent Media Center. Jan 2007. Feb. 2007. http://miami.indymedia.org/news/2007/01/7444.php
Zwerdling, Daniel. “Strategy used by Coalition of Immokalee Workers to get the attention of Yum! Brands.” NPR, All Things Considered. 16 June 2005. Nov. 2006. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4706271
Acronyms and vocabulary
A.F.L.-C.I.O.: American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organization
banlieus: Isolated housing developments outside of major French cities that tend to be made up of concentrated immigrant communities
B.B.C.: British Broadcasting Company
beur: French-born children of immigrants originating from northern Africa
C.I.W.: Coalition of Immokalee Workers
C.N.N.: Cable News Network
Communautorisme: A body of people living in a closed community under shared, fixed rules
C.R.A.N.: The Representative Council of Black Organizations in France
F.F.V.A.: Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association
HACU: Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
immigrant communities: Concentrated populations of people made up of immigrants and/or their descendents
laïcité: Secularity, and the French principle separating the church and state
maghrehb: Regional name for the nations of north Africa, with descendants being known as Maghrebians
N.A.A.C.P.: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
N.C.L.R.: National Council of La Raza
N.P.R.: National Public Radio
political opportunity model: A social movement succeeding by working with the general structure of political institutions, formal, and informal procedures of governing, and the configuration of power in the broad sense of the nature and power of political parties and interest groups
psychological model: A social movements succeeding from societies reaction to a large disturbance in everyday life
resource mobilization theory: suggests movements would not commence nor be successful without the aid of certain political, social, and economic components already in place
social movement: A group of people with a common interest who work together either to change a policy of government and/or to change how society perceives something
Trente Glorieuses: Period of French society post-WWII in which the country led Europe in economic growth