Opting Out: Efficacy, Identity, and Ideology in the Modern Homesteading Movement Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Radke, Jordan
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology
  • This dissertation explores how participants of the Modern Homesteading movement come to account for acts like growing tomatoes and canning beans as protest or dissent. I use homesteading as an example of a lifestyle movement (LM), a loosely organized collective of individuals who change their lifestyles in response to social problems. Through in-depth, open-ended interviews with 49 people, I analyze the conditions under which people participate in LMs, defining participation as the degree to which one accounts for lifestyles as ideologically structured contentious action. This dissertation contributes to efforts to diversify the study of movements beyond organizationally coordinated activism targeting change in the public sphere. Studying a movement which accentuates characteristics relegated to the margins of scholarship – private, individualized, everyday activism – magnifies these features for deeper analysis. I found that people explain their lifestyles using contentious ideologies when doing so restores their ability to claim identities strained by problematic outlooks. Contrary to expectations, participants felt part of meaningless or unstable systems, yet powerless to change them. Despite the presence of pessimism and inefficacy in outlooks (unprompted worldviews/emotions), participants disavowed these perspectives in self-presentations and lifestyle accounts (narratives/rationales for homesteading). I explain this tension using vocabularies of motive, arguing that resignation contradicts participants’ explanations of their actions as functions of independence and/or conscientiousness. To such individuals, participation in irreparably immoral or unstable systems makes them complicit in or controlled by the systems against which they articulate their identity, creating a strain in which worldviews and feelings contradict the identity they seek to claim. Under these conditions, participants explained their homesteading as a way to “opt out” of, and thus reduce compliance with or dependence on, systems – restoring their ability to claim conscientiousness and independence despite resignation, leaving existing systems intact. This framework – analyzing interviews as self-presentation, examining which narrative elements are espoused and denounced in accounts – offers a contribution to movement scholarship. Additionally, this study illuminates the motivating role of inefficacy under certain conditions; the interplay between identity, efficacy, and ideology; the role of personal identity in participation; the rise in individualization of political expression; and lifestyle dimensions of all movements.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Holland, Dorothy
  • Andrews, Kenneth
  • Tyson, Karolyn
  • Kleinman, Sherryl
  • Caren, Neal
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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