Prepared by Merlin Chowkwanyun
Note: Considerable disagreement exists over the exact definitions of these terms, and they should be viewed only as general and broad definitions written for non-specialists coming to the December 5, 2013, meeting from a variety of academic and practitioner backgrounds.
Campaign Although some may use “campaign” as synonymous with “social movement,” the former might be better thought of as a tool for movement participants to use. It refers to attempts, usually public, to drum up support for a cause, claim, or idea, typically those underpinning a social movement itself. These attempts usually draw on slogans, visual symbols, and political motifs and are often waged via mass media, pamphlets, and other ephemera.
Framing This term refers to the terms of debate and the parameters of discussion on which a discussion does (and does not) take place. Framing can also refer to strategic diction, choices of connotation, and special overtures to certain interest groups or specialized audiences. A conscious decision by policy makers to discuss education as a population health issue (or deciding not to do so) is an example of framing.
Grassroots Though often used loosely, this term denotes a more informal, localized, democratic, and less rigidly structured and organized approach to political mobilization and social movements. Grassroots movements often include ordinary people without professional status or direct access
to policy makers or elected officials, and they often work outside more formal channels.
Narrative This refers to storytelling, implicit and explicit, when movement participants try to amass support. Narratives include both individual anecdotes and causal explanations of why phenomena like racial health disparities occur.
Networks The social, political, and organizational/institutional ties among people that can be mobilized in service of a social movement.
Resource mobilization An older school of social movement scholarship that analyzes how movement participants marshal and utilize economic, political, and other resources. A new generation of scholars has critiqued this approach and underscored the importance of narratives, frames, and emotional appeals, which are often as influential in determining movement momentum and ultimate success.
Social movement A collective effort, usually by groups but sometimes by coordinated individuals, to make claims on states and private entities and/or spread ideas, beliefs, or practices among a population in the hope of achieving societal change. Social movements are frequently in tension or open conflict with a status quo.
Further general reading:
Goodwin, J., J. Jasper, and F. Polletta. 2001. Introduction: Why emotions matter. In F. Polletta, J. M. Jasper, and J. Goodwin, eds., Passionate politics: Emotions and social movements. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Pp. 1–26.
Orleck, A., and L. Hazirjian, eds. 2011. The war on poverty: A new grassroots history, 1964–1980. Athens: University of Georgia Press.
Polletta, F. 2008. Culture and movements. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 619(1):78–96.
Tilly, C., and L. J. Wood. 2013. Social movements, 1768–2012, 3rd ed. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.