Arguably, institutional boundaries between academic disciplines can hamper researchers’ creativity and ability to innovate, and simply bridle their curiosity. The tension between approaches by cultural areas – i.e., by countries or regions of the world – and approaches by theme, issue, discipline, or theoretical orientation certainly has a tendency to become a gap, a chasm. Scholars who follow the former approach risk leaning toward cultural relativism, while those who follow the latter risk espousing an abstract universalism that is blind to the reality of different cultures and histories.
With this study of the LGBTQ movement in the United States, Guillaume Marche offers us reassuring evidence that it is possible to accommodate the best of both sociology and American studies, of which he is evidently a remarkable specialist. His book is bound to become a reference for anyone who is interested in the United States, wishes to know the history of the LGBTQ movement, or thinks, as I do, that social and cultural movements are at the heart of the production of collective existence.
The history of the LGBTQ movement is close to three quarters of a century long. It burgeoned after the end of World War II, crystallized with the Stonewall riots in New York, following a police raid in a Greenwich Village gay bar, and has not stopped transforming and diversifying itself ever since.
As a keen observer and a researcher whose fieldwork spans a good 20 years, Guillaume Marche develops an analysis that springs from below – from the individuals, the singular subjects, and their experience whose core is undeniably sexual – to show how collective action emerges and evolves. His work situates itself at the crossroads between a sociology of the subject and processes of subjectivation, for which the meaning of action is the heart of the analysis, and an interactionism that is attentive to the interpersonal encounters through which the movement takes shape. Contrary to the premises of the resource mobilization paradigm, which is more interested in rational calculations and strategies, this study offers a rigorous and highly paradoxical demonstration of what can become of a protest movement that achieves great success. In succeeding, the LGBTQ movement has lost (perhaps only temporarily?) a good deal of its capacity for grassroots mobilization.