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social movements, movement building, social forums


This article investigates the movement building dynamics of contemporary social movement milieus (such as particular protests, social forums or occupations). It develops the concept of the “relay” to introduce four ideal-type movement building relays understood as distinct movement milieus: clustering relay, networking relay, organizing relay, and transforming relay. Each ideal-type captures different points on a continuum of increasing movement building and thus for generating commonalities, shared understandings and identities, mobilizations and strategies. Focusing on what I call the current “rhizomatic movement epoch,” which ranges from roughly the Zapatistas to the recent occupy-type protests, the relay framework can provide a larger conceptual umbrella or schemata for movement-to-movement transmissions. Moreover, focussing on “the situated” element of movements, the relay seeks to highlight the milieu of cooperation attempts, the physical, social and psychological space, the political-economic and socio-cultural setting, in which actors and groups interact. It focuses on those elements that are between the outside of the broader political economy and political opportunity structures (which arguably pre-structure the particular relay) and the “inside” of intra-group or movement behaviour (which in turn feeds back on the particular relay dynamics). While drawing on selected empirical examples from protests, social forums and networking attempts, this article has a conceptual focus, exploring possibilities by adoption of such a relay lens to further our understanding of movement building dynamics and the temporality of social movements, the current movement milieu and social movement theory more generally. As such, my hope is to raise questions and open further research avenues of interest to social movement organizers and scholars.

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Studies in Social Justice, v. 8, issue 1, p. 27-44