Introduction: Meaning-Making in Social Movements

Charles. Kurzman
2008 Anthropological Quarterly  
O ver the past century, the field of social movement studies has moved several times toward the recognition and analysis of meaning-making by social movement participants. It may be time, now, to make a new leap in this direction. What would happen if we not only recognize meaningmaking as an important facet of social movement mobilizations, but privilege it as the central feature of such phenomena? This special section explores several implications of this leap. What do we mean by
more » ... g? The concept is a broad one that draws on multiple traditions in sociology, anthropology, and other social sciences. At its root is the proposition that humans constantly seek to understand the world around them, and that the imposition of meaning on the world is a goal in itself, a spur to action, and a site of contestation. Meaning includes moral understandings of right and wrong, cognitive understandings of true and false, perceptual understandings of like and unlike, social understandings of identity and difference, aesthetic understandings of attractive and repulsive, and any other understandings that we may choose to identify through our own academic processes of meaning-making. Meaning-making might be conceptualized in two distinct and complementary theoretical registers. For methodological individualists, it refers to
doi:10.1353/anq.2008.0003 fatcat:ams6spwkhvaw5amhcuodcm5opq