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Paper Discussion

Co-opting Pride: Assimilation, Shame, and Struggles for Recognition in LGBTQ Movements

by Andrew Shapiro

Nov 5, 2020 | 12:00- 1:30 PM

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As much as LGBTQ scholars and activists draw strength from history’s boldest moments of queer self-assertion, queer history has in reality oscillated between liberatory and accommodationist tendencies. And even as both poles of queer politics have produced material gains for queer lives, accommodationism risks undermining LGBTQ movement work by way of cooptation with little empirical evidence of its relative efficacy. In this presentation, I seek to explain why queer activists in general and white gay men in particular have opted for such institutional politics even where radical militancy might have entailed fewer risks and greater rewards. Pulling together various perspectives from queer theory, psychoanalysis, and the sociology of social movements, I attribute such institutionalism to an ambivalence in both strategic incentives and psychic motivations. White gays in particular and queer people in general are often raised in heteronormative households and socialized into dominant gender norms, all of which inculcates a sense of shame at failing to abide by prescribed expectations. Even as queer activists try to overcome their shame through overt expressions of pride, such pride tends to repress their shame without eliminating it. Unconsciously, they may seek to escape their shame by way of social recognition. Soliciting recognition from normative institutions in this way both reflects and exacerbates a relationship of dependency that makes cooptation increasingly likely.

About the Author

Andrew Shapiro is a Ph.D. student in Sociology, Critical Theory, and Women’s and Gender Studies at the Graduate Center, CUNY. His research investigates the structural and psychic mechanisms through which patriarchy, white supremacy, and other systems of domination are reproduced and contested. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Vassar College, where he researched the changing contours of racial exclusion and inclusion for New York’s Ashkenazi Jewry. His most recent projects further examine the historical trajectories of Jewish, LGBTQ, and other social movements. After three years of teaching at Lehman College, he now works with the Writing Center at the CUNY School of Law.

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Paper Discussion

The Pitfall of Popularity: The Dynamic of Radicalization in the 1989 Tiananmen Student Movement

By Zitian Sun

Date: October 22nd, 2020

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This paper investigates the dynamic of radicalization during the 1989 Tiananmen Student Movement. I ask why the students escalated their tactics and demands just when the government offered to negotiate. I argue that the dynamic was driven by the division between moderate and radical students. Moderates used the radicals as leverage to encourage the regime to negotiate. Radicals, however, were able to draw more public attention through their more dramatic actions, and the increased attention from abroad led to flows of resources to radical leaders. When the regime began to negotiate, the radical students staged a massive hunger strike. The inability of moderate students to control the actions of the radicals undermined their ability to extract concessions. The regime hardliners responded by marginalizing the regime soft-liners, ending the negotiation, and repressing the movement violently. This study critically engages theories of radicalization, such as those put forth by Ruud Koopmans, Francis Fox Piven & Richard Cloward, and Sidney Tarrow.

About the Author

Zitian Sun is a graduate student at the Department of Politics, New York University. His main research focuses are states’ repression tactics, organizations in contentious politics, and radicalization dynamics in social movements, with a regional focus in East Asia. His works apply mixed methods to explore mechanisms of decisions among less organized communities within authoritarian settings. His on-going project, “The Pitfall of Popularity,” is addressing the impact of meso-level interactions among protesters with respect to radicalization. Prior to his career at New York University, Zitian Sun received his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from American University, Washington, D.C.

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Presentation

Right-wing protests in the US: How a violent protest launched the conservative movement and homeschooling in the US

In 1974, the Conservative Movement was born in the hills of West Virginia. The controversy over which books students would read spurred violent protest over race, religion, and family, and saw nearly half the students removed from local public schools. It drew national attention and the arrival of members of Congress, the Heritage Foundation, the John Birch Society, and the KKK. Nearly 50 years later, the Kanawha textbook war is largely forgotten, but the legacy of protest over public education persists and removing students from school remains a tactic in the larger plan of the Conservative Movement to secure political power. This talk recounts this political history and links it to the ongoing politics of opting out, the homeschooling movement, and control of the public square.

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About the Author

Heath Brown is associate professor of public policy at the City University of New York, John Jay College, and the CUNY Graduate Center. His books include Immigrants and Electoral Politics: Nonprofit Organizing in a Time of Demographic Change (2016) and The Tea Party Divided: The Hidden Diversity of a Maturing Movement (2015).