Social Movement Workshop: Jeff Feng and Marisa Allison

An intercampus exchange of advanced social movement scholarship

Friday, January 28, 2022 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM EST
Online Platform (Zoom)

Logos of 5 Participating Universities

Friday, January 28, 2022 at 2:00 pm (EST)

Presenters: Jeff Feng (UCSB) & Marisa Allison (Mason)

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Join us as we hear about and discuss research carried out by advanced PhD students, faculty, postdocs, and movement based activist scholars. This workshop is a new collaborative exchange between academic institutions with specialties in disciplined social movement research.

Jeff Feng PhotoPresenter: Jeff Feng

Jeff Feng is a Ph.D. Candidate in political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. They research the intersections of queer liberation and climate justice, the impacts of gender violence on environmental justice social movement mobilization, and the performance of environmentalism. They work alongside the scholar-activist Central Coast Climate Justice Network to use research to build the movement and pass local Green New Deal policies.  

"Toward queer climate justice"

Existing environmental justice studies research suggests that social movements intersectionally frame and bridge (link two or more social movement frames) from environmental and climate justice to reproductive justice, abolition, animal rights, and disability justice. These studies identify the ways that frameworks rooted in social and economic justice inform environmental and climate justice. However, intersectional environmental justice scholarship leaves underexplored the ways social movements link sexuality and gender identity to climate justice. By qualitatively analyzing U.S.-based media & movement documents, blog posts, and newspapers articles, as well as interviews with queer climate activists, I identify two social movement frames that queer and trans activists within U.S. climate and environmental movements are advancing, which I call “queer climate justice” and “LGBTQ climate change.” These frames align in interpreting that queer and trans people are vulnerable to the climate crisis but misalign in identifying and addressing the root causes. I find frame convergence on three elements: 1) intersectional queer and trans vulnerability to climate change; 2) survival and resilience as the source of queer and trans contributions to the climate movement; and 3) pleasure in climate activism. In particular, activists converge on naming similar issues to bridge the fight for queer and trans life and against climate change, such as the high proportion of LGBTQ people relative to straight and cisgender people in the unhoused population, which they suggest leaves them more vulnerable to climate-change-exacerbated natural disasters. These findings highlight the how and why of queer and trans climate organizing. However, I also find frame divergence among queer and trans activists, who have contrasting interpretations of climate problems and solutions. On the one hand, I critique the LGBTQ climate change frame as a homonormative, neoliberal, and reformist frame. It undergirds some White queer climate activists’ organizing—to solve the disproportionate climate impact on queer and trans people, the state is the ultimate solution and queers can learn from prior LGBTQ rights fights for state recognition such as passing marriage equality or repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to inform climate change organizing. On the other hand, the queer climate justice frame, advanced by an abolitionist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist contingent, has little faith in the state and calls out the ease with which corporate Pride engages in pink and green washing. Queer and trans contributions to the climate crisis are therefore not the same nor are they less exclusionary than prior iterations of LGBTQ organizing. This paper contributes to environmental justice research by expanding climate strategy to include queer and trans perspectives and by bringing analytic attention to how queer infrastructure and what I call ecohomonormativity reinforce climate injustice.

Marisa AllisonPresenter: Marisa Allison 

Marisa Allison (she/her/hers) is a doctoral candidate in Public and Applied Sociology at George Mason University. With a strong commitment to public sociology, action research, and liberatory higher education, Marisa entered into the emerging field of critical university studies after several years in the higher education movement arena where her scholarship and activism has focused on academic labor conditions, student debt, and corporate influence in higher education. Using a longitudinal case study in one institution, her doctoral research investigates the ways transformations in political economy have affected institutions of higher education, the work and learning that happens within them, and the ways those within resist.

"Where the Public in Public U. Begins and Ends: An Institutional Ethnography of Resistance to Corporate Influence in Higher Education"

George Mason University has made headlines for decades as scholars, reporters, student activists, faculty, and community members have tried to uncover the ties that exist between the Charles Koch Foundation and their network of donors and the university. Stakeholders from across this public university feared that these donors had long held “undue influence” over leadership selection, research projects and publications, faculty hiring and firing, and curriculum development (to name a few), as such had been found in leaked documents from other universities. Those fears were largely confirmed when a transparency campaign led by student activists reignited faculty and community concern and resulted in a legal battle that took the students and the University Foundation to the Virginia Supreme Court and subsequently led to the release of donor agreements and communication which catalyzed a change in university policies and multiple pieces of state legislation that increased transparency in the historically opaque space between donors and university foundations, and the public universities they support. Using longitudinally collected public documents and field notes, this presentation delves into the ways a focus on transparency within this public university gave leverage to a movement campaign that had difficulty finding foothold in previous attempts.

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