158.3 Learning and (de)alienation in social movements: Considerations from two case studies on anti-poverty community organizing

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 3:00 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Joseph E. SAWAN , Sociology and Anthropology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada
In the face of globalized capitalism there is evidence that people from various socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds are coming together in new ways to challenge injustice and organize for social change. While every social movement has its unique set of dynamics, there is a potential common thread that can be attributed to the social agents involved in each instance. Each scenario takes place in a particular community in which people have become estranged from their basic human needs and, as a part of globalized capitalism, established a degree of dependency on institutions that are significantly alien to the respective communities. Fundamental to both the problem and the action individuals and groups take in response to it are the dynamic practices, relations, mediations and experiences of human alienation and de-alienation.

For participants in two recent case studies on anti-poverty community organizing, there is evidence of a link between participation in social movement activity and understanding alienation. What were the key artefacts that helped motivate them to participate in the unique manner that they did? How did their participation engage them in new understandings of their communities and ways to overcome conditions of poverty and feelings of powerlessness? What emerges from the narratives of participants is a distinct interest in engaging in activities that provide a sense of empowerment and hopefully contribute to overcoming alienation.

Through a preliminary analysis of their biographies and stories, this paper demonstrates how an understanding of how they overcame distortions of their basic human needs allowed for more positive and effective organizing activities.