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6 - Mobilization on the Threshold of the Political

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 November 2020

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Summary

Abstract

This chapter focuses on the “how” of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) movement's reenchantment, and demonstrates the importance of the symbolic aspects of activism. I analyze the initiatives whose form – rather than content – situates them on the margins or the fringes of “the” movement. While the mainstream LGBTQ movement paradoxically pays scant attention to sexuality, these initiatives perpetuate the expression of an activism that seeks to challenge dominant norms. These infrapolitical forms of action resort to culture, humor, and pleasure in order to mobilize a dimension that has all but disappeared from the visible face of the LGBTQ movement.

Keywords: LGBTQ movement reenchantment, symbolic aspects of activism, marginality and dissidence, infrapolitics, humor and pleasure in social movement

Over the course of these chapters we have seen that the identity challenge faced by the American LGBTQ movement sheds light on the importance of the symbolic aspects of collective action. As we can see in the evolutions in LGBTQ activism since the early 1990s, there are significant organizational and strategic advantages in a movement that is unified around clear institutional claims – for example, in allowing achievable instrumental goals to be set. This model of action has enabled a numerically marginal cause to obtain unexpected recognition in a context of high-profile political and ideological conflicts. But there is still a wealth of militant potential on the fringes of politics that is as yet untapped. Observing the American LGBTQ movement in fact forces us to rethink the relationship between culture and politics. In a politically hostile context, cultural forms of collective action can perpetuate the visible expression of activism that ultimately seeks to challenge and transform social norms. This has been demonstrated in research on abeyance structures, particularly in relation to the feminist movement, following Verta Taylor's research.

Chapter 5 showed that, along with sexuality, the interconnectedness between the private and public spheres has been the foundation for the “reenchantment” of collective action. This final chapter addresses the same issues, from a slightly different perspective. Instead of focusing on the goals, content, and messages of this action, it examines the form of certain initiatives that remain on the fringes of the LGBTQ movement, just below the threshold of the political.

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Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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