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Why are we doing this? Public sociology and public life

Living Research One: Why are we doing this? Public sociology and public life This short section is a conversation between an activist involved in the project 1 and a member of the research team. Each reflects candidly on the value of the MIC project to civil society and on social research (and socially engaged research) in general as a ‘public good

in Go home?
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Religion and spirituality in environmental direct action

and the secular in this movement, in the context of a critique, broadly shared within the movement, of mainstream Western religion as hierarchical and ecologically malign. Thirdly, drawing on detailed qualitative research regarding environmental direct activists in the 1990s,1 we argue that, despite these struggles over religion, activists routinely draw on cultural resources in order to give meaning to their values, identities and actions in forms that are – sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly – religious in nature. We explore the uses of this ‘de

in Changing anarchism
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political activists to cope with the burdens which contemporary Western societies bestow upon the individual. Their discussion of how activists involved in direct action protest utilise discourses of nature and spirituality as ‘resources’ to try to forge a more ‘holistic’ sense of Self is important in a number of respects. Firstly, it shows the complex nature of social movement culture, particularly the kind of affective dimensions that theorists frequently ignore. Secondly and relatedly, it counters the charge sometimes made by more ‘traditional’ anarchists that

in Changing anarchism
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Collaborations

treachery. Here we discuss what was involved in our research relationships, from those between ourselves as academic activists and ‘resisting others’ (Autonomous Geographies Collective, 2010 : 248) to our work with an established, profit-making research company, which we subsequently found also carried out work for the Home Office. We will try to describe as best we can what we did to deal with conflicting pressures and

in Go home?
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Public anger in research (and social media)

, had met as a group of academics and activists when Gargi organised a workshop on ‘race critical public scholarship’ at the University of East London (for a sense of the discussions there, see Murji and Bhattacharyya, 2013 ). Drawing on links we had established there and elsewhere, and using a combination of online and offline communications, we came together as a research team in response to developing Home Office initiatives, as

in Go home?

-motion car wreck would speed up … If I went to the drowning man the drowning man would pull me under. I couldn’t be his life raft (Flynn 2004 : 10–11). I begin this chapter with this quote because it captures the fluidity between marginality and centrality in an activist’s biography and how social movement subcultures serve as a space for liminal adolescence. Flynn, a renowned American poet, first met his father while working at a homeless shelter. The memoir features two parallel

in The autonomous life?
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How grave robbers, activists, and foreigners ended official silence about Stalin’s mass graves near Kiev

3 Bykivnia: how grave robbers, activists, and foreigners ended official silence about Stalin’s mass graves near Kiev Karel C. Berkhoff The story of Bykivnia is one of boundless mass murder by Stalin’s People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs, or NKVD, against Soviet and Polish citizens, but also the depressing tale of how, for seven post-war decades, Soviet and post-Soviet authorities attempted to relegate the killing site to oblivion, how boys and men mangled and looted the skulls and bones for years, and how even after the official veil of silence and deceit

in Human remains and identification
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Passion and politics in the English Defence League

‘Loud and proud’: Politics and passion in the English Defence League is a study of grassroots activism in what is widely considered to be a violent Islamophobic and racist organisation.

The book uses interviews, informal conversations and extended observation at EDL events to critically reflect on the gap between the movement’s public image and activists’ own understandings of it. It details how activists construct the EDL, and themselves, as ‘not racist, not violent, just no longer silent’ inter alia through the exclusion of Muslims as a possible object of racism on the grounds that they are a religiously not racially defined group. In contrast activists perceive themselves to be ‘second-class citizens’, disadvantaged and discriminated by a ‘two-tier’ justice system that privileges the rights of ‘others’. This failure to recognise themselves as a privileged white majority explains why ostensibly intimidating EDL street demonstrations marked by racist chanting and nationalistic flag waving are understood by activists as standing ‘loud and proud’; the only way of ‘being heard’ in a political system governed by a politics of silencing.

Unlike most studies of ‘far right’ movements, this book focuses not on the EDL as an organisation – its origins, ideology, strategic repertoire and effectiveness – but on the individuals who constitute the movement. Its ethnographic approach challenges stereotypes and allows insight into the emotional as well as political dimension of activism. At the same time, the book recognises and discusses the complex political and ethical issues of conducting close-up social research with ‘distasteful’ groups.

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homeless and abused wife – ‘Where will she live? Where will she go?’ – when transposed into the contemporary political vocabulary of the nation state can be read as: Who belongs? Who can move and how easily? Who can stay? For how long? And on what terms? It was questions like this that troubled us when we came together as activist researchers to counter the 2013 Home Office immigration publicity campaign ‘Operation Vaken’, of

in Go home?
Aspirations to non-racism

’, while Garland and Treadwell (2010: 30) argue that claims to non-racist ideology by the organisation constitute a veneer of respectability only thinly covering more commonplace racism and Islamophobia among the EDL’s ‘rank and file’. The research conducted for this book – whose ethnographic approach allows declarative statements to be evaluated alongside observed behaviour – suggests a more diverse and complex set of understandings of ‘race’ and racism among grassroots activists in the movement. This chapter starts with a brief discussion of core debates over the

in Loud and proud