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From Status to Strategy: Intellectuals Engaging the Grassroots

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Sociological Review
DateAccepted/In press - 2020

Abstract

Drawing upon activist interviews, this paper proposes that the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) is better understood not by focussing on the objective status of its leadership as middle-class intellectuals, but by instead looking at what these ‘movement intellectuals’ subjectively did to link their philosophy of liberation to the lifeworlds of those they sought to engage. It argues that this shift reveals three important features of social movements and movement intellectuals more generally. Firstly, it uncovers the meaningful, value-driven, emotional, and collective-identity bases for action, alongside the more familiar instrumental motivations. Secondly, given the inevitable clash between movement intent and the contingent constraints under which movements invariably operate, it argues that movement success is better judged not by external criteria that are assumed to hold universally, but instead by reference to the unique strategic intentions articulated by movement intellectuals themselves. Finally, it shows how, given heterogeneous audiences, the deployment of a diversity of grounded intellectual strategies can help augment the potential resonance of a movement’s core political message.

    Research areas

  • Black Consciousness Movement, framing, social movements, preformativity, Intellectuals, movement intellectuals

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