Emotion and gender in local anti-austerity activist cultures

Craddock, Emma (2017) Emotion and gender in local anti-austerity activist cultures. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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While large-scale studies of European anti-austerity movements exist, there is a need for in-depth, ‘thick description’ of anti-austerity activist cultures which explores the sustaining as well as motivating factors for political engagement. Furthermore, it is important to pay attention to differences, including gendered differences, within counterhegemonic movements to highlight the power imbalances that exist. This thesis utilises a cultural and affective approach combined with a gender lens to explore the lived and felt experiences of political participation and the gendered dimension of these. It contributes to developing a cultural and feminist approach to studying movements that takes account of emotion and gender by developing an in-depth understanding of a local anti-austerity activist culture.

The research used a combination of qualitative research methods, including participant observation and semi-structured interviews with 30 anti-austerity activists in Nottingham. It reveals the central role of emotions in motivating and sustaining activism, uncovering the sustaining processes of solidarity and collective identity, and the importance of reasserting these in the face of an individualistic neoliberal capitalism. It identifies existing gendered barriers and exclusions to activism and ways of overcoming these, revealing that activism’s negative effects are gendered, with women feeling anxiety and guilt for not “doing enough” of the ‘right’ type of activism (direct action). This prioritising of direct action denigrates online activism, which is constructed as its opposition, underlined by the talking versus doing binary construction. Despite its supposedly abstract, universal character, it emerges that the ‘ideal perfect’ activist is the able-bodied male. The implications of this are explored, revealing the ‘dark side’ of activism which is hidden from public view. The thesis also identifies the construction of the ‘authentic’ activist who has the required lived experiences to be a ‘true’ activist, raising issues of representation. It therefore unravels the tensions between participants’ claim that “anyone and everyone can and should do” activism, and the constraints that prevent individuals from becoming politically active, including, problematically, how the ‘activist’ identity is constructed.

The thesis highlights the importance of ‘care’ within the context of austerity, demonstrating the ‘retraditionalisation’ of gender roles and norms, with the redrawing of the public/private divide. In response, it explores how activism can be redefined as a form of degendered care, drawing on participants’ emphasis on empathy and universalist discourses. Overall, it contributes to social movement and feminist theory, as well as their overlap, by developing a cultural, affective, and feminist approach to studying social movements which takes account of gendered differences in activist experiences.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Stevenson, Nick
Kramer, Anne-Marie
Keywords: anti-austerity activism, social movements, gender, emotion, feminism
Subjects: H Social sciences > HM Sociology
J Political science > JF Political institutions (General)
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Sociology and Social Policy
Item ID: 40848
Depositing User: Craddock, Emma
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2017 04:40
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2018 04:42
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/40848

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