Strategy, Performance, and Gender: An Interactionist Understanding of the Italian Lgbtq Movement and the Catholic Countermovement

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 11:31
Location: Elise Richter Saal (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Anna LAVIZZARI, University of Kent, United Kingdom
Recent social movements scholarship is gradually moving away from (over)structuralist and mechanistic frameworks, towards a more nuanced understanding of the cultural and strategic dimensions of mobilization and collective action. This has spurred a renewed interest in understanding social movements as interactive processes, where gender is viewed as essential in understanding processes of recruitment and mobilization, strategies, frames, and forms of organization. Concurrently, participation in social movements and their gendered outcomes affect the life-course patterns of individuals in multiple ways.

For these new avenues of research, one of the core issues pertains to how young men and women interact within gendered social structures, and how they reproduce or contest gender hierarchies as they protest. This paper deploys the concept of social performance and gender performativity (that is, the process through which gendered meanings, roles, relations, and identities are continually being constructed and revised) in order to both examine the role that femininities and masculinities play in mobilization, as well as complicate our understanding of strategy in collective action. Namely, I suggest that the concept of social performance is optimally suited to make sense of non-strategic activity, and to highlight the tension between expressive and strategic action. This requires a further questioning of the continuum between strategic action and social performance: is all performance strategic, or is all strategy a performance?

The LGBT movement and the Catholic countermovement provide a case for the analysis of competing cultures of protest, where “gender” is currently the object of one of the most controversial debates in the Italian public arena. Looking at the key actors involved in this struggle for normative change, the paper aims at exploring the contended strategies, discourses, frames and performances from an interactionist perspective.