Alternative Pathways to Activism: Intersections of Social and Personal Pasts in the Narratives of Women’s Rights Activists


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Abstract

We examined pathways to activism, focusing on the narratives of women’s rights activists who grew up in different places and times, using interview transcripts from the Global Feminisms Project archive. The findings reveal that experiencing a socially or personally disruptive event (e.g., a war or loss of a daughter due to domestic violence, respectively) facilitated activism at different stages of life in unique ways; and there were specific catalysts for activism for each stage. Those who grew up under oppressive regimes thought activism was the most “natural” response to what was going on sociopolitically; for them, feelings of freedom and strength were the catalyst. Those who experienced a disruptive event in their adolescence viewed their activism as intertwined with their personal identity; for them, love, support and togetherness were the catalyst. Finally, those who experienced disruption in their adulthood viewed their activism not as identity, but simply as action. They made sense of these actions by tracing the continuity in their lives; and for them, small political acts and accomplishments were the catalyst. The relationship between politicized identity and personal identity, as well as the bidirectional relationship between activist involvement and politicized identity is discussed in light of these findings.

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