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Book cover: Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change

Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change

ISSN: 0163-786X
Series editor(s): Dr Patrick G. Coy

Subject Area: Sociology and Public Policy

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Document request:
We Don’t Agree: Collective Identity Justification Work in Social Movement Organizations


Document Information:
Title:We Don’t Agree: Collective Identity Justification Work in Social Movement Organizations
Author(s):Belinda Robnett
Volume:26 Editor(s): Patrick G. Coy ISBN: 978-0-76231-263-4 eISBN: 978-1-84950-380-8
Citation:Belinda Robnett (2005), We Don’t Agree: Collective Identity Justification Work in Social Movement Organizations, in Patrick G. Coy (ed.) Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change (Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, Volume 26), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.199-237
DOI:10.1016/S0163-786X(05)26007-X (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article type:Chapter Item
Abstract:Through an analysis of the leaders of the 1960s Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) this paper highlights the importance of individual identity work, and argues for an expanded theoretical treatment of social movement identity processes that takes account of partial identity correspondence (a partial alignment between an individual identity and the movement identity) to include degrees of identity congruence. Actors can embrace a movement, but remain in a state of conflict regarding some dimensions of its identity. Extending James Jasper's ((1997). The art of moral protest: Culture, biography, and creativity in social movements. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press) identity classifications, the data suggest that participants engage in identity justification work when incongruence among personal identity (biographical), collective identity (ascribed, i.e. race, gender), and movement identities exist. This work may not reflect the organization's efforts to frame or reframe the movement identity. This study finds that individuals manage incongruence with organizational and tactical movement identities by employing three identity justification mechanisms: (1) personal identity modification of the movement's identity; (2) individual amplification of the common cause dimension of collective identity; and (3) individual amplification of the activist identity through pragmatic politics. Rather than dismantling the past, as Snow and McAdam ((2000). In: S. Stryker, T. J. Owens, & R. W. White (Eds), Self, identity, and social movements (pp. 41–67). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press) propose, actors incorporate their biographies as a mechanism to achieve feelings of community and belonging. It is not so much an alignment with the organization's proffered movement identity as it is a reordering of the saliency hierarchy of their identities. Unlike Snow and McAdam's conceptualization of identity amplification, the reordering of an identity hierarchy and the amplification of certain identities is precipitated by the actor's, not the organization's, efforts to align her/his personal identity, collective identity, and movement identities.

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