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Small acts, kind words and "not too much fuss": Implicit activisms

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journal contribution
posted on 2012-10-24, 08:54 authored by John Horton, Peter Kraftl
In this paper, we suggest that social scientists’ accounts of ‘activism’ have too often tended to foreground and romanticise the grandiose, the iconic, and the unquestionably meaningful, to the exclusion of different kinds of ‘activism’. Thus, while there is a rich social-scientific literature chronicling a social history of insurrectionary protests and key figures/thinkers, we suggest that there is more to ‘activism’ (and there are more kinds of ‘activism’) than this. In short, we argue that much can be learnt from what we term implicit activisms which – being small-scale, personal, quotidian and proceeding with little fanfare – have typically gone uncharted in social-scientific understanding of ‘activism’. This paper will reflect upon one example of this kind of ‘implicit’ activism, by re-presenting findings from interviews undertaken with 150 parents/carers, during an evaluation of a ‘Sure Start’ Centre in the East Midlands, UK. From these interviews emerged a sense of how the Centre (and the parents/carers, staff and material facilities therein) had come to matter profoundly to these parents/carers. We suggest that these interviews extend and unsettle many social-scientific accounts of ‘activism’ in three key senses. First: in evoking the specific kinds of everyday, personal, affective bonds which lead people to care. Second: in evoking the kinds of small acts, words and gestures which can instigate and reciprocate/reproduce such care. And third: in suggesting how such everyday, affective bonds and acts can ultimately constitute political activism and commitment, albeit of a kind which seeks to proceed with ‘not too much fuss’.



Emotion, Space and Society, 2009, 2 (1), pp. 14-23


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NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Emotion, Space and Society. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Emotion, Space and Society, Emotion, Space and Society, 2009, 2 (1), pp. 14-23. DOI# 10.1016/j.emospa.2009.05.003.



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