About the Center of Social Movement Theory
Pamela Oliver, Conway-Bascom Professor of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, an expert on collective action, social movements, news coverage of protests, and racial disparities in criminal justice will give a talk "The Ethnic Dimensions: Bringing Ethnic Divisions and Conflict to the Center of Social Movement Theory" at the International Research Seminar in Sociology in the HSE on June, 5, 2013. She gave an interview to the HSE news service.
— How could you define ethnic divisions in the modern world?
— My answer to this is long and complicated and is one of the main points of the talk. The short version is that I believe ethnicity is socially constructed and multi-dimensional. I argue that the interaction of structures of domination with network cliquing or segregation and intergenerational transmission are the key factors. Whether ethnicity is tied to conflict depends on the extent to which ethnic groups are relatively isolated from one another and have conflicts of interest. This is a huge question that many scholars in the ethnic conflict literature address with a great deal of research. I draw on this research but do not add to it.
— As we know social movement theory has failed to provide adequate tools for understanding the core differences among social movements. What is new in your approach?
— My central argument is that the abstract dimensions about groups or movement carriers that make a group more ethnic (or less ethnic) are dimensions that are important for analyzing all social movements, whether they are ethnic or not. That is, the "ethnic dimensions" are theoretical tools for understanding all movements, including class or gender movements or movements around issues like environmentalism or peace.
— You've been researching this issue in the United States mainly. How your findings might be used in Russia?
— I don't know enough about Russia to say whether my ideas will be helpful to Russian sociologists. I am hoping to learn more from Russian scholars about this.
— How did your cooperation with the HSE start? What are your expectations of your visit to Moscow?
— Ben Lind, Associate Professor, Faculty of Sociology, HSE heard me give an earlier version of this talk when I won the McCarthy Award at the Notre Dame University Center for the study of Social Movements. So far, that is the extent of our cooperation. What I hope to gain in visiting is to meet academics with similar interests and learn from them more about Russia. Hopefully, Russian scholars will find my knowledge about the US and social movements theory helpful.
— What is the most acute question in social movement today? In what countries? Do you think that researchers pay enough attention to the issue?
— This can be answered in two difference ways. One is regarding what are empirically the most important things happening right now. The answer to that is that I don't know. There is so much going on in so many parts of the world, I feel like I have a hard time taking it all in. We had huge protests in Madison that occupied much of my attention in 2011, even though there were arguably more important events happening elsewhere. One important field of study is news coverage of social movements, seeking to study why some movements get much news attention and thus become well known while others do not.
The other way is theoretically. Here I would say the problem is to get good data about social movements and other actions related to them and then advance theory about the dynamic relations among movements, politicians, economic trends, public opinion, etc. in ways that pay attention to the importance of the news media as both an actor among actors and a data source. This is not a topic in my presentation on the ethnic dimensions, but it is the topic of my theoretical paper with Dan Myers on the Coevolution of Social Movements, and I'm working now with a couple of other people at Wisconsin to see if we can get back to this issue in a new project.
— Do you have a favorite quotation which helps you keep going with teaching and researching?
— Well, my favorite quotation is not really about teaching and research, it is more about dealing with the world, but I think it will do. "Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justice now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now. You are not required to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."
This version of the quotation is all over the Internet with a citation to "the Talmud". I researched and found that it is a rearrangement of what was originally written by Rabbi Rami Shapiro in his interpretive translation of a section of the Talmud which is, in turn, a commentary of a Bible passage from the book of Micah.
Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for HSE news service