Intersectionality, Radicalism, Identity, and Community: An Ethnographic Case Study of Animal Activist Organizing in Canada
Boyacioglu, Mehmet Emin
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This thesis is an ethnographic case study of an animal activist organization (ACT) through an intersectional feminist theoretical lens. Qualitative data regarding ACT’s demographic constitution, internal organizational dynamics, activist strategies, ethical and political principles, and relations to other animal activists in the region have been collected through participant observations, in-depth interviews with activists, and a content analysis of social media. Data gathered and analyzed through the Grounded Theory methodology demonstrate that, despite its progressive politics in terms of gender, racialization, and class, ACT reproduced some oppressive dynamics of these, such as a normative, gendered division of labour. Contrary to ACT’s principle of non-hierarchy, a co-founder became its leader due to his possession of traits valued in activist circles dominated by a white, middle-class, and masculine culture; and his politics informed by a particular radical activist subculture was adopted by ACT. Many were not allowed to join ACT for not embodying the expected activist criteria, which were exclusionary in the sense of being formulated through a white, middle-class culture. Ideological and tactical disagreements between ACT and other activists led to aggressive conflicts because of some ACT organizers’ intolerance to any aberration from the rigid understanding of ethics they upheld. As individual and organizational identities outweighed solidarity in this activist setting, the erosion of trust further severed the community. Many activists who endorse ACT’s principles of intersectionality, anti-oppression, and community-building attribute their disbandment to the failure of applying these in activist praxis, and envision a better future for animal advocacy through a flatter organizing, healthier communication, a less rigid understanding of ethics, and more respect and consideration afforded to the people in and out of the activist community.