Social Movement Schools: Movement Resource in Performative Challenges for Change

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Elise Richter Saal (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Larry ISAAC, Vanderbilt University, USA
Anna JACOBS, Vanderbilt University, USA
Jaime KUCINSKAS, Hamilton College, USA
Allison MCGRATH, Vanderbilt University, USA



How do some individuals come to be determined, committed, effective, long-term movement agents?  Learning is, of course, at least part of the answer.  But what kind of learning?  Where?  How?  We know that some learning can be done pre-movement involvement; i.e., people learn something about what movements do from a distance by consuming news reports, film, literature, or other cultural genres.  People also learn through interpersonal communications with others who may have had movement experience.  And we know that significant learning also occurs through direct involvement in movements, or learning on-the-job, so to speak.  Yet there is another, largely ignored, answer to this question: social movement schools.  By “social movement schools,”we mean those organizational spaces deliberately created by social movements to educate, mentor, train, and otherwise seek to prepare individuals for work as effective movement agents. 

We: (a) marshal theoretical elements from resource mobilization, cognitive, and cultural approaches to movements as the motivation for focusing on movement schools; (b) develop a conceptual typology for comparatively assessing the range of forms taken by social movement schools; (c) illustrate several different types of movement schools through empirical case studies; and (d) formulate hypotheses to guide future research on movement schools.  We suspect that movement schools are significant resources that may help account for the degree, duration, and efficacy of activist performance. 

By conceptually highlighting movement schools, a host of new questions are generated for social movement scholarship, including: What kinds of movements tend to create distinct movement schools?  What is the range of organizational forms of such schools?  What kinds of schools tend to be most efficacious, and under what conditions?  Social movement schools deserve the attention of social movement scholars and activists alike.