Blurring Boundaries: Recognizing Knowledge-Practices in the Study of Social Movements
Abstract

Abstract:

Social movements are arising in unexpected places, producing effects not normally associated with our traditional understandings of either politics or movements. No longer, and perhaps never, solely the highly visible, modernist expressions of resistance to the state, movements are not only enacting politics through protest and cultural contestation, but are generating diverse knowledges. From heated debates over the meaning of Italy's alter-globalization movement; to careful direct-action strategizing in Chicago's cooperative bookstores; to conferences on Native American environmental justice issues, contemporary movements are important sites of knowledge creation, reformulation and diffusion. We call these "knowledge-practices." Building on interdisciplinary approaches to the study of social movements, we argue that when we recognize movements as processes through which knowledge is generated, modified and mobilized, we gain important insights into the politics of contemporary movements. This recognition also has important methodological implications. It requires that we shift the mode of engagement in our research, blurring established social scientific boundaries and promoting a more relational-symmetrical approach.