activism

Popularizing dissent: A civil society perspective

Judy Motion, Shirley Leitch, C Kay Weaver

This article theorizes civil society groups’ attempts to popularize opposition to genetic modification in New Zealand as deliberative interventions that seek to open up public participation in science–society governance. In this case, the popularization strategies were designed to intensify concerns about social justice and democratic incursions, mobilize dissent and offer meaningful mechanisms for navigating and participating in public protest. Such civic popularization efforts, we argue, are more likely to succeed when popularity and politicization strategies are judiciously integrated to escalate controversy, re-negotiate power relations and provoke agency and action.

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Citizen cartography, strategies of resistance to established knowledge and collective forms of knowledge building

Jorgelina Sannazzaro

Cultivation of genetically modified soybeans with the use of herbicides is now becoming widespread in Argentina. This work addresses an emblematic case of knowledge articulation between experts, professionals and communities, namely, the case of an association of people affected by fumigation Grupos de Pueblos Fumigados (GPF). The GPF warns against agrochemical spraying in urban areas, and its activists collect and disseminate information about its impact with a view to banning the practice. Here, we apply Parthasarathy’s framework, used to analyse the strategies employed by activists to break the expertise barrier, to the case of the GPF, adding a new category to her original four strategies. There is an institutionalizing potential in these social and environmental movements, many of which are organized in the form of Civic Assemblies. The composition of the assemblies reflects a heterogeneous and multi-sectorial character; they articulate a new kind of knowledge that can be an appropriate interlocutor for traditional expert knowledge.

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“Dioxins are the easiest topic to mention”: Resident activists’ construction of knowledge about low-level exposure to toxic chemicals

Nina Blom Andersen

This article discusses how residents in a local area contributed to the construction of knowledge in regard to scientific assessments in relation to a fire in a storage dump of burnable waste. Building on analytical concepts primarily from Social Worlds theory as well as some concepts from Actor–Network Theory, the analysis shows how dissent and a number of scientific controversies were initiated by some residents living nearby the waste dump who proved to be excellent network builders and who built a number of alliances with media and independent scientists, thus questioning the authorities’ and their experts’ legitimacy. Furthermore, the situated analysis identifies how a few persons—not very organized—were able to create a debate about scientific matters using their combined resources and strong alliance-building abilities, thus proving that in some cases there is no need for a higher level of organization.

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