Most research on the role of identity in social movements treats identity as something that is constructed solely by movement participants themselves. However, participants are not the only actors involved in this identity construction. This article uses basic insights from symbolic interactionism to argue that external claims, or claims made about movement participants by those outside the movement, also shape activists' sense of identity. Using data collected during three years of fieldwork with members of a non-violent animal rights organization, I show how the activists made use of their opponents' depictions of them—in particular, charges that the activists were "overly emotional" and "irrational"—when describing themselves. Specifically, I illustrate two processes by which these external claims left their mark on the activists' identity: identity disconfirmation and identity recasting. More broadly, I suggest that "bringing the outsiders in" to examinations of identity and collective action provides a more complete picture not simply of identity construction but of movement dynamics as a whole.
Bringing The Outsiders In: Opponents' Claims and The Construction of Animal Rights Activists' Identity
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Rachel Einwohner; Bringing The Outsiders In: Opponents' Claims and The Construction of Animal Rights Activists' Identity. Mobilization: An International Quarterly 1 October 2002; 7 (3): 253–268. doi: https://doi.org/10.17813/maiq.7.3.x726315p10013277
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