Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 August 2010
This volume has presented eight case studies of popular intellectuals on different continents who reflected on society in order to change it. They cover a broad range of people whose activist intellectual work has made a difference: from college-educated environmentalists to autodidact revolutionaries, from indigenous activists to Islamic fundamentalists. We believe there are good reasons to bring together these different historical actors, precisely because there is gain in this diversity: each article highlights specific themes that provide valuable insight in the social dynamics of ideological work. Here, we bring together a selection of these insights and explore, at the same time, how a focus on popular intellectuals allows us to better understand some salient aspects of social contention.
INNOVATORS, MOVEMENT INTELLECTUALS, AND ALLIES
Three types of popular intellectuals (and the fluid boundaries between them) are well represented in this volume: innovators, movement intellectuals, and allies. “Innovators” carve out discursive spaces and “invent” new political discourses for emerging social movements; they may remain loosely connected to a movement but may also become its intellectual leaders. “Movement intellectuals” emerge in the development of social movements and include core activists and leaders. Movement allies include intellectuals who lend their expertise to a specific movement. The roles of these three types may be linked to the trajectories of social movements.
A typology of popular intellectuals is not an obvious starter for the concluding remarks to a volume that draws attention to the social dynamics of framing. This is even more so when we consider David Smilde's thought-provoking contribution. Smilde argues against a focus on intellectuals (as a category of people) if we want to understand activist intellectual activity among ordinary people.