Monday, November 03, 2008

Noel Sturgeon: "Theorizing Movements: Direct Action and Direct Theory"

Brief intro by Julie
Noel Sturgeon
Professor of Women’s Studies, Washington State University
PhD, History of Consciousness, UC-Santa Cruz

Book: Ecofeminist Natures: Race, Gender, Feminist Theory, and Political Action, Routledge, 1997.

“Theorizing Movements: Direct Action and Direct Theory”

“nonviolent direct action movement”
identifying characteristics:

  • •affinity groups

  • •consensus process

  • •nonviolent direct action

  • •multifaceted radical democratic politics


“Read movement’s practices and structures as a form of theorizing through practice” she calls it “direct theory,” a lived analysis of contemporary domination and resistance



To make the “direct theory” visible, “thick description”: an interpretive layering of practices, symbols, actions, and social structures
Alternated called “critical hermeneutics” an interpretation that seeks a ‘deeper’ meaning but considers that meaning as partially constructed by my interpretation and thus always open to further interrogation.

Interested in promoting “a wider understanding of the processes of social and political change than generally founding social movement theory”

Description of affinity groups, how they come together, how they do their work, how the effect a broader dialogue about democracy.

Theorizing the Direct Action Movement
Sturgeon examines oppositional discourse of the movement as a way of changing discursive frameworks
Method to rework consent and authority

Uses her “direct theory” approach to retheorize social movement approaches

  • •Analyze social movements not only as oppositional, but provide new historical dimensions and critiques of what activists are doing

  • •Integrate in gender relations to broad structural changes

  • •Use feminist theories to understand social movements

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