Searching for the Microsociology of Social Movements: Everyday Emotions, Interaction and Conflicts in Radical Action

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Maarit LAIHONEN, Aalto University School of Business, Finland
The extant research on social movements have been traditionally relying on structural explanations and focused on either resource mobilization, political opportunity structures, framing processes, or social movement organizations. However, these approaches have for the most part ignored actors’ choices and desires and situational dynamics, and hence treated the participants of these movements as taken-for-granted. Through an exceptional in-depth ethnography of radical protest movements, this research aims to analyze and reveal the underlying microsociological dynamics constituting the here-and-now of the formation, survival, and decay of these radical movements: Experiences, interactions, and emotions of those initiating and participating resistance and movements outside conventional forms of organization resulting in choices on morality and tactics, enthusiasm and devotion, commitment and solidarity, as well as conflicts, apathy, and emotional burnouts. This research joins in, and contributes to the emerging discussion on interaction and emotions in social movements. Hence, by focusing on the experience and situated interaction, in contrast to structural approaches relying on third-person explanations, this study contributes in providing phenomenologically valid first-person explanations of the dynamics of radical social movements. The analysis is based on in-depth ethnographic study and a rare empirical data on the in-crowd of a radical movement. Although social movements are widely studied since 1960s, as well as the rise of environmental movements, the microsociology, rooted in embodied experience and interaction, of such movements and protests has been by large still neglected. Therefore, this research contributes to the understanding of the meaning of internally oppressive structures such as forgotten underlying everyday meaning making and work in a protest.