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Activist ethnography and social movements: Opportunities and potentialities

Sutherland, N



A criticism recently directed at social movement literature is that movement activists are often disappointed by what they find in social movement theory (Howley, 2008; Plows, 2008; Jasper, 2010; DeFilippis et al, 2010). It fails to address practical concerns (Barker and Cox, 2002); is often produced for a solely academic audience (Juris, 2007); and ultimately, is not relevant (Bevington and Dixon, 2005). However, despite calls for researchers to produce more useful research for the movements that they study, little has been written regarding activist-centric methodologies as vehicles for producing movement-relevant knowledge. This paper seeks to redress this balance, and will focus on the role of activist ethnography in social movement research, as a relational and reflexive process that involves direct engagement with movement activists at each stage of the research process, from the formulation of ideas through to the dissemination of research findings. The opportunities and potentialities of the methodology will also be highlighted here, as well as its ‘dual commitments’, that is, not only seeking to advance social science agendas, but also to bring value to those movements and activists under study.


Sutherland, N. (2012, August). Activist ethnography and social movements: Opportunities and potentialities. Paper presented at 7th Ethnography Symposium

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name 7th Ethnography Symposium
Start Date Aug 29, 2012
End Date Aug 31, 2012
Acceptance Date Jan 1, 2012
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords activism, ethnography, social movements
Additional Information Title of Conference or Conference Proceedings : 7th Ethnography Symposium