Local Actions: Cultural Activism, Power, and Public Life in America

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Melissa Checker, Maggie Fishman
Columbia University Press, 2004 - Political Science - 254 pages
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Activism is alive and well in the United States, according to Melissa Checker and Maggie Fishman. It exists on large and small scales and thrives in unexpected places. Finding activism in backyards, art classes, and urban areas branded as "ghettos," these anthropologists explore the many routes people take to work toward social change.

Ten absorbing studies present activist groups across the country -- from transgender activists in New York City, to South Asian teenagers in Silicon Valley, to evangelical Christians and Palestinian Americans. Each one examines a social change effort as it unfolds on the ground. Through their anthropological approach these portraits of American society suggest the inherent possibilities in identity-based organizing and offer crucial in-depth perspectives on such hotly debated topics as multiculturalism and the culture wars, the environment, racism, public education, Native American rights, and the Christian right.

Moving far beyond the walls of academia, the contributors address the complex issues that arise when researchers have stakes in the subjects they study. Scholars can play multiple roles in the activist struggles they recount, and these essays illustrate how ethnographic research itself can become a tool for activism.


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About the author (2004)

Melissa Checker is assistant professor of applied anthropology at the University of Memphis. Her research on environmental justice activism is the subject of an upcoming ethnography and several articles. She has been involved as an activist in the environmental justice movement. In her own discipline she endeavors to bring anthropological voices into public policy.

Maggie Fishman is completing her doctoral dissertation on the contemporary arts education movement in New York City in the department of anthropology at New York University. She works evaluating arts-in-education programs in New York City public schools and has been active there in various causes, including the creation of a neighborhood school whose curriculum incorporates the tools of ethnography.

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