Social movement movements and long-term urban alliances: how engaged scholars have strengthened our understanding of sustained justice practice

Stream: Panel 74 - Human Rights & Democracy: From Theories of Rights to Practices of Justice: The Challenge of Engaged Scholarship in the Field of Rights 
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 11.00 am – 12.30 pm


From late 2011 to late 2014, Castells, along with a series of social movement scholars were quick to argue that uprisings like the Arab Spring, the Umbrella Revolution and the Occupy movement would lead to radical social transformation. Yet in each of these places – from Cairo to Athens, from Hong Kong to Madrid – the capacity to sustain enough political pressure to progressively reform the state has been at best uneven, and at worst suffered grievous set backs. One of the reasons for this was the tendency for scholars to focus on “moments” of uprising – the protest – as the physical embodiment of contestation. In doing so they missed critical “hard to see” details – the organisational, leadership processes and networks – whose presence or absence dramatically affected long term success. Another mode of scholarship is emerging in this space – the engaged scholar. These writers are not only researchers investigating social change, but are participants in long-term social organisations and movements. This paper argues that engaged scholarship has a powerful contribution to make in opening up “moment focused” analysis by making visible the often invisible. For instance, their analysis can draw out important markers of success like the subtle process of leadership development, relationship formation and sustainability, campaign development and strategy. The paper briefly identifies several examples of scholars engaged in urban alliances who have used their engagement as a way to bring a more grounded and long-term perspective to the practice of justice.


Amanda Tattersall (Presenter), Sydney University
Amanda is a scholar and a community organiser. She is the author of Power in Coalition, founder of the Sydney Alliance and co-founder of She is an Honourary Associate in Urban Geography at the University of Sydney, and sessional lecturer citizenship, urban geography and Australian Politics..