In search of movement: Italy's movimento dei movimenti, theoretical-practice and re-making the political Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Osterweil, Michal
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology
  • My dissertation is an effort to rethink our understanding of social movements and politics, taking a movement's own production of meanings, knowledge and theoretical-practices as key to such renewed understanding. By looking at Italy's movimento dei movimenti (MoM), a movement that is considered part of the global wave of protest launched in Seattle, and made most visible on occasions like the violent protests against the G8 in 2001, I argue that social movements cannot be understood using traditional conceptions or theoretical frameworks for such an endeavor. Traditional approaches treat movements as objectively definable entities, de-limitable in time, place and to a particular set of concrete demands and objectives. However, my sustained ethnographic research revealed that this movement, was comprised as much by the narratives, descriptions and stories about it, as it was by any material or political reality that constituted it. In fact, with its multiple levels of action and presence, it should be understood as a space and meaning-making tool for developing new political practices, for re-imagining the political, and for producing new visions and subjects of social change. Building on diffuse collective knowledge of both the past failures of traditional politics and new theoretical and practical insights, Italian activists have worked to create novel forms of cultural-political mobilization that have at their center political and ethical commitments to difference, partiality, reflexivity, and autonomy. Central to the emergence of these features are reflective and theoretical-practices that help to create the conditions of possibility for transformative social change, through cultivating critical ethical subjects, non-dogmatic knowledges, as well as practices and lifestyles that reflect these. Building on insights from a wide variety of disciplines, including cultural studies, anthropology, geography, and political theory, I argue that social movements must be understood not simply as oppositional entities, but also as sophisticated knowledge producers, contributing to the creation or consolidation of a new political imaginary.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Anthropology."
  • Escobar, Arturo
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  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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