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On Love and Revolution: Towards a Loving Turn in Social Movement Studies

Lazar, Hillary (2022) On Love and Revolution: Towards a Loving Turn in Social Movement Studies. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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There is a long history of love in political thought dating back to understandings of friendship among ancient philosophers like Plato and Aristotle and the radical divine love of early Christianity to more recent expressions in Gandhian nonviolence, MLK Jr’s beloved community, and the “peace and love” ethos of the sixties anti-war movement. There has even been a loving turn within several academic disciplines evident in the growth of affect theory and feminist “love studies” and in professional fields like education, law, and social work. Yet, although messages of love abound in contemporary mobilizations—from calls for “Black Love” by racial justice activists to the popular motto “Love our Mother” in climate activism—sociologists have yet to fully consider the meaning and significance of love in current movements, particularly as told by activists themselves.

Far more than merely a clever trope, appeals to love by today’s activists point to the central role it plays in the ideological, ethical, tactical, and experiential aspects of movements. Based on a decade of scholar-activist “militant research” drawing on autoethnography, interviews, focus groups, and digital media analysis, this project offers a phenomenologically-grounded and insider perspective on three aspects of love in recent activism: 1) Love as repertoire, 2) Love as praxis, and 3) Love as political experience. By breaking down disciplinary silos—putting traditional movement theory in conversation with critical theories, Black feminism, decolonial thought, and anarchism—it also offers a fresh set of theoretical perspectives on how to approach movement research.

In so doing, this study not only makes the case for our own loving turn within sociology but helps to address some of the fundamental questions posed by movement scholars—what leads people to take action, what impact does activism have, and how do activists seek to effect socio-structural transformation? And, ultimately, it suggests that not only has love become one of the core repertoires and master frames of the day, but that for many activists love serves as part of their revolutionary ethical practice, theory of change, and one of the more profound experiential—and personally transformative—dimensions to their movement work.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Lazar, Hillaryhal62@pitt.eduhal62
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMarkoff,
Committee MemberStaggenborg,
Committee MemberPaterson,
Committee MemberGoodhart,
Committee MemberBamyeh,
Date: 12 October 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 5 July 2022
Approval Date: 12 October 2022
Submission Date: 18 July 2022
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 373
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Sociology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sociology; Social Movements; Activism; Love; Ethics; Framing; Tactics; Affect Theory; Black Feminism; Anarchism; Mutual Aid
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2022 15:03
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2022 15:03


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