Potential Research Topics: Language Inclusivity, Nonviolent Rhetoric, and “Abolishing Capitalism”

1: Many queer activist communities adopt certain norms surrounding language inclusivity, such as introducing yourself to people with your gender pronouns or not assuming that others date people of a certain gender. Why is this language important? The use of inclusive language is characterized by an avoidance of many assumptions that often characterize a heteronormative society. Additionally, using certain language is a way to signal that you have engaged with the community in the past and have educated yourself on the issues facing the community. What do we make of criticisms that dismiss language inclusivity as “political correctness”?

2: In response to the above topic, community norms surrounding language are always changing, which can be intimidating for people who are just starting to engage with a movement. In order to build power, movements need to lower the costs to engagement by making their spaces and communities accessible to newcomers. How do they balance this with their norms surrounding respectful and inclusive language?

3: How do social movements convince their members to adhere strictly to nonviolence? Is this a rhetorical process, or is it grounded in practical training that shows members what to expect? What are the benefits of nonviolent organizing? For example, you can have people of all age groups participating.

4: Some American activists (including many LGBT activists) try to transfer their own frameworks for movement building to other countries. Is the rhetoric of the American activists inevitably discounted as an element of unwanted American influence, or are there cases in which this international movement building is effective?

5 (my research topic): Why is Marxist/communist/anti-capitalist rhetoric so prominent in many activist spaces in the United States? In Rules for Radicals (1971), Saul Alinsky discussed how “revolution has become synonymous with communism while capitalism is synonymous with status quo,” largely because most revolutionary writings that activists had access to were grounded in the language of communism (Alinsky 8-9). Alinksy provides a starting point in examining why this rhetoric has become deeply ingrained in many activist movements, which might also be further explained by United States-USSR relations during the Cold War period. In fighting against the capitalist status quo, many activists idealize communist rhetoric without acknowledging the realities of living under communist dictatorships, and my desire to examine this phenomenon is grounded in both its hypocrisies and in its potential hazards.

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One thought on “Potential Research Topics: Language Inclusivity, Nonviolent Rhetoric, and “Abolishing Capitalism””

  1. Alinsky was the quinessential advocate of pragmatic radicalism/activism of his time, and I think in addition focusing on this phenomenon, there is room to analyze his views on radicalism in the context of modern day activism. What you said about activists employing communist rhetoric was often indicative of many 60’s-70’s activists not recognizing the world as it was and instead making proposals for sudden and dramatic change. You could maybe look at broad failure of the mass-revolution idea and how it forced many radicals back to Alinsky’s original insights- analyzing the shift towards pragmatism in activism using the example with radicals idealizing communist rhetoric to support a broader claim activism divorced from material realities is problematic or fails. Really interesting topic!

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