[diggers350] Re: please read

alexandra plows sop04a at bangor.ac.uk
Fri Sep 24 15:08:44 BST 1999

hiya TLIO and whoever else is out there
sorry that some people got my email as gobbledygook.
ive pasted it in below so it should now be readable.
i am especially looking to interview WOMEN  as it seems 
that theres a lot of men out here in cyberspace.
anyway message follows
all the best- alex.

i have a request for the list. i am an activist (for 
7 years now) aslo doing my phd on, why people take direct 
action. so basically i need to find people who would be 
happy to talk about their ethics, politics, their 
worldviews, their need to show off (oops sorry thats just 
me probably)etc etc.
i especially would like to interview a couple of people who 
are involved in more proactive nvda (ie landsquats which 
show alternative visions/utpoias) as much as the (of 
necessity)reactive campaigns such as newbury

so thats you lot really. any takers? please please!!!
option1 is that i come and visit + we do a face to face 
or option 2 it can be done via email.
sory i didnt make the tlio gathering, or the natty one for 
that matter. being a mum has to come first though...
below is some bumph saying more or less the same that i 
sent to the rts list a while ago. there is a very boring 
academic resume of my phd as well right at the end.
email me!!!

--are you a dedicated activist?
-are you passionate about why you take direct action?
can you rant about it into the wee small hours?
if so i need to hear from you!! read on... 
hi i'm alex plows-some people might know me as "donga alex".
ive been doing nvda since twyford in 1992, and have been 
part of many other campaigns such as Solsbury hill 
and newbury. i've been living in north wales for a few 
years now and have focussed a lot more on local 
campaigns/issues as part of the gwynnedd and mon ef! group. 

over the last few years i've been writing loads about the 
reasons why we take direct action, the political and 
ethical issues which motivate us to put -often- our lives 
and liberty at risk in the defence of mother earth. i'm now 
doing a phd on this and i  need help!!
so please please if you feel you can contribute by letting 
me meet up with you to have a good talk,and record your 
finest rants and visions-
email me <sop04a at bangor.ac.uk>
or write to alex plows
dept of sociology and social policy
university of wales bangor
college road
gwynnedd [work phone no 01248 383825]

i am doing this phd for 3 main reasons-
1)people have a hell of a lot to say but it doesnt get 
picked up on by the press desperate for a 'swampy 
soundbite'- so this is a  way of getting a really good look 
at activists worldviews, so that we get properly 
represented and hopefully inspire some people- so academia 
as another strategy to achieve political change (ok snigger 
if you want!)
2) there are a lot of academics starting to write about us 
as a"new social movement"-some of it is good and well 
motivated- a lot of it is bollox as they just dont really 
get it, and they arent connecting-or worse just want to 
use us as a platform for their theories. Being part of 
it all, i can connect, i believe in the cause, and i know 
where to look, so this is us telling our own story
3) some of the questions i'm asking, like 'what do we have 
in common'-'where are we different' 'does it matter as 
diversity and autonomy are strengths 'where are we going' 
are the sorts of strategic things a lot of us ask ourselves.
a lot of what i'm writing at the moment is about organic 
strategies, that it just unfolds as we go along, and we 
deliberately dont mess around with it too much cos thats 
where things go wrong. that all being said i think that the 
sort of thing i'm doing can be of use to us as a movement.i 
do workshops on these sorts of things at festys for 
starters and aim to publish stuff in user-friendly ways.

below for anyone who might want more bumph is some rather 
poncy text about my research (my latest attempt to get some 

TITLE Activist Strategies and Motivations; Identities and 
Construction of Meanings 

Personal Biography
As part of the ‘Donga Tribe’ who campaigned at Twyford Down in 1992, I have
been an active
participant in the roads and related protest movement from its beginnings. My
unique status as
an "insider 
researcher" (Roseneil 1995) is an invaluable resource, in terms of the
experience of and
contacts within the movement I possess, and the trust and subsequent access my
enables me to utilise for the gathering of ethnographic detail.(see

Direct Action roads protests evolved at Twyford Down in 1992. Within a year a
national movement
comprising hundreds of people had been mobilised and other protest camps
up across the
country. The protests and the issues they raise are now extremely high profile
(as at Newbury,
Fairmile, Manchester Airport). Whilst roads have been the primary focus of
protest, from 1992 
onwards the Non Violent Direct Action movement  has been, consciously, "multi
issue" and has 
campaigned about, for example, Shell Oil, arms sales, quarrying, genetic
Proactive, as well as reactive, campaigns also figure prominently, from small-
permaculture co-op projets to large scale collective 
actions such as ‘ This Land Is Ours’ and ‘Diggers’ "land- 
squats". Recent strategic developments within the movement 
include a move to more locally- based, ‘community’ actions 
by protesters spread across the country, slightly shifting 
the focus away from massive national campaigns; a rise in 
the profile of  anti genetic engineering campaigns as the 
major focus of movement activity, and a continued process 
of affiliation with a range of other campaigns and groups. 

Aims of the Research
To examine, through the life histories of a number of protesters, the
Firstly, what action is being taken, and how is it being taken- i.e. actions
and tactics such
as office occupations, protest camps, destruction of GM crop sites etc.
Lifestyle as a
strategy (e.g. communal living, travelling) may also be a factor. The primary
aim is to
ascertain why these actions are being taken, through an analysis of the
meanings given to 
action, and the motivations, the actors themselves identify. The aim, to
discover and analyse
what motivates people to take action, will be addressed from a combination of
micro, meso and
macro perspectives (Roseneil 95, Wall 99)- ie an analysis of  the
background of
opportunity, friendship networks etc. will combine with an examination of the
personal story and worldview. Based on the analysis of the actors motivations,
this research
project also aims to address some of the questions regarding New Social
Movement theory,
specifically to what extent the  environmental direct action movement can be
said to be
in the process of constructing a shared, communally held, worldview - to what
extent is there
a commonly held identity based on the shared construction of the meaning given
to action. Here
the research will draw on the work of Klandermans (1992), Snow and Benford
(1986), Eyerman and
Jamieson (1991),  Melucci (1989) amongst others.

That ideologies and motivations are clarified and inspired by the taking of

Secondary Hypothesis
Based on the above hypothesis, and on the actions being taken, that the
movement is in 
an "organic" process of constructing shared meanings.

Ethical Considerations
All qualitative data collated will be anonymised as a matter of course on the
wishes of the 
activists already consulted.

Relevance of the Research
1) This research accords with the ESRC’s thematic priority no.2 "Environment
and Sustainability
", specifically in relation to the issues identified under the heading
Attitudes  to 
the Environment’. It also accords with thematic priority no.8.

2) This research will profile the perspectives, motivations and actions of 
movement activists;
questions about where the movement has come from,  where it is going and why,
will be

3) Grounded in the actors’ own histories and perspectives, the ethnographic
detail this 
research will provide will be invaluable to those (academics and others)
seeking to understand
the radical ecology direct action movement. Very little contemporary research
of this kind has
been done, and the NSM literature needs putting into the context of the
contemporary protest
movement in Britain. A prominent theme at the (1997) Alternative Futures and
Popular Protest
conference was the identification of this lack of ethnographic detail as set
against the mass
of often speculative theory. A pressing need to identify the issues which
inform the protest 
movement from the perspectives of the actors themselves was identified.  This
research proposal
and its methodologies are located in this context, of analysing - and
challenging-NSM theory
through an examination of movement practise.

4)This research also aims to be of interest to the activists themselves, both
radical direct
activists and those more ‘traditional’ pressure groups, NGOs, seeking to
understand the
movement and its implications.

Qualitative methodologies, specifically participant observation, and in-depth
interviews/ life
histories of key informants, will be undertaken. By building on the knowledge
and social 
contacts I already  have with protest activists, but taking a more distanced
and reflexive
stance as a researcher towards them, I intend to produce a well grounded and
ethnographic account of a distinctive form of political action of considerable
public interest.
The research methodology, and my status as a researcher, have close
correlations with feminist/
critical theorist epistemologies, in that the research aims to produce
into an
oppositional movement with which I myself have a partisan, although not
identification. The methodological approach will thus engage with the
issues of
and personal biography. The methodology and my status as a ‘partisan insider’
are located in the feminist tradition which states that; partisanship is an
unavoidable part
of any research process, and given that there are also methodological
disadvantages, it can
be an invaluable tool of the research process. This is perhaps particularly so
in the context 
of my own research, given the nature of the radical ecology direct action
movement where trust
and access are significant issues.

Sample Selection
Research will focus on individuals who have been active for at least two
Part of the rationale for this is to discover whether the perspectives of
have changed or developed over time, and whether these changes (if identified)
to a development, or change of focus, in the  motivations for action, protest
strategies and/
or lifestyle choices these individuals have made. The primary goal is to
document the
perspectives of committed activists, as opposed to focusing on the
of individuals
whose involvement may be more short lived/ transitory. I anticipate that 
‘key informants’ will in turn ‘snowball’ other likely candidates.

Sources being consulted/theoretical background
I am currently in year one of this PhD project and am conducting a literature
in the relevant fields, building on the archive sources used during my MA.
Literature in the 
following areas has been, and will continue to be, comprehensively reviewed:

1) NSM literature including Tilly, Klandermanns, Kreisi, Melucci, Snow and
Benford, Eyerman and
Jamieson, Tarrow, dellaPorta, Habermas, Gramsci and others.

2)Ecophilosophy (deep ecology, ecofeminism etc)/ environment and development
including writers such as Naess, Plumwood, Shiva, Bookchin, Goulet.

3) Contemporary academics writing on British protest from a cultural,
ideological perspective including Pepper, Purkis, Doherty, McKay, Wall,
Roseneil, Dobson
, Seel amongst others.

4) literature relating to the methodological practise of  qualitative
Also feminist
perspectives re. the methodological implications of partisan, reflexive
research. Wrtiters
include Harding, Mies, Roseneil, Hammersley and Atkinson, Bouma and Atkinson,

5) "underground", "DIY" publications, flyers, Internet sites etc produced by
the movement
itself  will be a crucial aspect of the data archive process. Such
‘Schnews’, ‘ Squall’, the Earth First! journal ‘Do or Die!’, the Genetic
Engineering Network
updates, the smaller publications produced by  local campaign groups. Websites
such as the
Earth First! website, the Reclaim the Streets website.

YEAR ONE  (currently under way). Renewing contacts with interviewees;
and sample interview outlines through ‘test study’ interviews; ongoing
literature review and 
archive research. Structural outline of PhD under way, i.e. how material is to
be organised.
Some initial writing up of material collated.

YEAR TWO  Data collection: participant observation, combined with in-depth
semi- structured
interviews with key informants. These will be undertaken in a series of three-
to - four week 
‘blocks’. As a result of ‘snowballing’, I anticipate undertaking additional
interviews with
other movement activists. Literature review will be ongoing and results

YEAR THREE  To be spent analysing and writing up the data collated;
restructuring of material
if appropriate. Additional interviews if required.

Postgraduate Training
I have been awarded my MA in Social Research and Sociology. This training has
invaluable in  terms of acquiring research skills and a thorough grounding in
methodologies. My MA dissertation focused exclusively on the methodological
(pragmatic and epistemological) of being a partisan ‘insider researcher’, and
the boundaries
between researcher/researched.  I have undertaken an Information Searching
Skills course
and am now fully conversant with search programmes such as BIDS, ASSIA and

I have also completed an Information Technology course and run Windows
programmes, use email
and the Internet as everyday research tools, for example sending and receiving
email from 
the Social Movements network (a network linking interested academics for
discussion purposes).
I am currently in year one of this PhD project, studying at the University of
Wales Bangor.

Teaching Work
I have taught several seminars on the subjects of community, empowerment and
development ethics
in the last two years. I have also been teaching a course module on feminist
thinking run by 
the sociology department.

Book Chapter: ‘Earth First! in Britain’ in DIY Culture: Party and Protest in
Nineties Britain
  (ed George McKay), Verso 1998.

Book Chapter currently being written for Direct Action in British
Environmentalism (ed Doherty,
Patterson and Seele) forthcoming Routledge 2000.

1998 Paper ‘Earth First! strategies- Reform and Revolution?’ given at the
Direct Action 
and British Environmentalism conference at Keele University.

1997 Paper ‘Roads Protest/ Earth First! and "multi issue" New Social
Beyond the dualisms of the ‘red/green’ debate’ in  Barker, C (ed) Alternative
and Popular Protest’, Manchester Metropolitan University

1997 Paper given at the Rural Economy and Society Study Group Conference,
university of Wales,

1995 Paper ‘Eco Philosophy and Popular Protest', in Barker, C. (ed.)
Alternative Futures and
Popular Protest 1, Manchester Metropolitan University.

alexandra plows
sop04a at bangor.ac.uk
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