Friday, May 10, 2013

Roger V. Gould: Insurgent Identities: Class, Community, and Protest in Paris from 1848 to the Commune



What I read: 
Insurgent Identities: Class, Community, and Protest in Paris from 1848 to the Commune by Roger V. Gould. (1995). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 251 pages.

Why I read it:

As is becoming a theme, this was a faculty recommendation.

A great quote or two:

"I hope to demonstrate the merits of a theoretical perspective according to which collective identities undergird normative commitments to social protest, but are at the same time the product of the very social relations that are both affirmed and forged in the course of protest." p 15

"In 1848, for instance, on man from Lyon endeavored to create a republican League of Short Men, claiming that he and his ilk were systematically excluded from the heroic battles out of which history was made. To my knowledge, there is no record of a significant response to this unusual appeal to solidarity." Footnote 35, p 181-182
"In place of a single thread of class formation linking each protest episode to the next, then, the evidence suggests more a multidimensioinal world of crossed purposes and digressions." p 199


Things I liked/learned:

In this book, Gould is a) challenging scholarship on the French Commune of 1871 by contending that the main mobilizing collective identity of the uprising was not class but neighborhood community, which had risen in importance due to the changes in urban spaces between 1852-1868 and  b) suggesting a theoretical perspective that considers collective action mobilizations (aka, individual participation) as the interplay of participation identity (aka the salient social/collective identity of participants) with major events, social interactions, and organizational leadership. To accomplish these ends, he compares the 1848 and 1871 French revolutions by analyzing information about the participating individuals, contextual events, and political/social structures.  

This book is an excellent example of clean and clear academic writing. The chapters flow well and there are plenty of reminders of what came before in the text and what is coming up next. Of course there is jargon, but there are also good definitions. Goal "a" of the text (described above) is presented particularly well; I was quite convinced by the argument that earlier scholars had overplayed the evidence to suggest that the 1871 revolution was the fruition of class consciousness and labor activism started in 1848.The idea of community (or neighborhoods) being more of a rallying identity than class in 1971 is fairly well established.

Goal "b" of the text is a bit more complicated to get into. I think the theoretical framework advanced makes a lot of intuitive sense, though I'm not sure I buy the additional examples Gould suggests in the conclusion. It would be interesting to see if other scholars picked up on his theoretical perspective and brought it to different empirical cases.

Reading about participation identity got me all fired up, as that's a topic near to my own research. I would take the concept and run in a slightly different direction, but it's nice to see that someone else has been thinking about this. 

Things I liked less/questions I have:


Where I had reservations (and there weren't many) they were about the data used. Gould goes into the challenges of this data in an appendix, which was much appreciated, and I know that doing historical analysis means that the information available is imperfect. Obviously Gould spent a crazy amount of time in archives in order to get the information that he has. However, I think it is easy to imagine multiple biases in data such as arrest records, marriage licenses, and reports from spies/interrogations, especially as so much of this data was recorded after the fact. How do we know that those that were arrested were actually participants? Were the number of arrests really correlated with the number of participants from a given region, or was there another factor, like the nearness of a police station, that could have affected arrest rates? These are the kinds of questions that arose for me.


How to use this reading:

As an example of how to write a good academic volume, in my work on participation identity, and in courses on collective action mobilization.


Original post
5/10/2013

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Katy E. Pearce: Phoning it in: Theory in mobile media and communication in developing countries



What I read: 

Why I read it:

Katy Pearce was recommended to me by a faculty member, as she has academic interests and a regional focus similar to mine. I have a feeling that we probably have a lot of friends/acquaintances in common. Full disclosure, I read this particular piece because it was easily available through her Academia.edu profile.

A great quote or two:

"Finally, most media and communication theories that are considered universal have not been tested outside of North America and Europe" (p2). 

Things I liked/learned:

This article was a great introduction to theories and practices from the communications field that are potentially useful to scholars interested in learning more about mobile media technologies and their use in the developing world.

I personally appreciated the overview, which hit on some theories of which I am aware and also mentioned a few others that may be useful in my future work. I liked the call to do good research on mobile communications in the developing world as a counterpoint to the major focus of communications research on North American and Europe (see the quote above).  Oh, and I also liked that the author defended her choice of the phrase "developing countries" (see Note 1, p 5).

The article also mentioned a couple of potential data sources that I look forward to exploring further: yes, the point of the article is that we need good theory underpinning our empirical studies, but it is also important to have good data to evaluate the relevance of these theories.

Things I liked less/questions I have:

I really shouldn't complain that the article was to short. Especially after reading The Rise of the Network Society. But this is me complaining: I wish there was more to this piece. Perhaps two paragraphs instead of one on the various theories that could be applied?  On the other hand, I appreciated the succinctness. So there's that....


How to use this reading:

If I do end up following the path of evaluating Western-based (for lack of a better term) theories and ideas about media use in the context of Central Asia, this piece will be a nice citation that I'm not the only one who thinks this should be done! It could also be good food-for-thought, included in a reading packet for undergrads or grads.


Original post
5/02/2013, updated to fix typos on 5/15/2013