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Social Action at the Margins

1150 Muirhead Tower
Social Sciences
Tuesday 15th October 2019 (14:00-15:30)
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There is a crack in everything….That's how the light gets in. (Leonard Cohen: Anthem, 1992).

There is a long tradition of radical social action – from the Suffragette’s, through to the US Civil Rights movement and on into Occupy and Extinction Rebellion. However, the term has been co-opted in recent years under both the Coalition and Conservative Governments.  Social action is no longer, in official discourse, about system change. It relates to self-help: citizens ‘doing for themselves’, not relying on the state and supporting each other. Further, that emphasis on self-help is strongly located, certainly in policy terms. within the context of hyper-local, geographically specific, communities rather than communities of interest or identity.

Building social action, whether on that locality basis or at a national and global level, is challenging in austere times. This session will explore those challenges in terms of:

•        The meaning and purpose of social action

•        What motivates and sustains social action

•        The nature of power and challenging powerlessness

•        How is social action changing – from ideas of collective action to more connective ways of organising

•        What are the implications of localism and the changing face of social action for refugee and migrant community groups?

In particular, the focus will be on social action ‘at the margins’ – organised by hidden ‘below the radar’ groups, often operating outside the formal voluntary sector, without resources and with marginalised groups -  particularly asylum seekers, refugees and migrants -  which have become demonised both in policy terms and the media.

But there is hope. If there is a crack in everything, including political systems, maybe the role of social action in the current environment is to find those cracks and let the light in.

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