Airi-Alina Allaste - Grassroots activism


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Workshop on Participation of Young People in Civil Society
15-16 November 2013

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Airi-Alina Allaste - Grassroots activism

  1. 1. Airi-Alina Allaste
  2. 2.  Overview of grassroots activism in Europe based on findings of secondary analyses of literature about activism conducted in 14 European countries for general description (report together with Ferrer, M.)  Findings of grassroot activism in Estonia based on analyses of 60 open-ended interviews in 2 contrasting sites
  3. 3. • Memory, Youth, Political Legacy And Civic Engagement 2011-1015 – A 14 country / 15 region project financed by EC FP7 – North and south, east and west, new and old Europe – 30 contrasting research sites, 2 in each region – Quantitative, qualitative and policy working groups – Project blog
  4. 4.  Does politically passive youth who have not experience of authoritarian regime and has not (yet) determined its political preferences, support (radical) populist parties and ideas which promise ‘the solution’?
  5. 5. • • • • • • • • WP1 Stocktaking and design WP2 Interpreting the past - the construction and transmission of historical memory, co-operation with museums WP3 Field preparation (Focus groups and expert interviews) WP4 Measuring participation (Survey – 2 contrasting cases in each country) WP5 Interpreting participation (Interviews with people participated in survey) WP6 Mapping activism WP7 Interpreting activism (ethnographies – 3 cases in every country and clusters that unite cases over countries) WP8 Policy and impact (Youth Policy Advisory Groups (YPAGs) - research integrated to policy and practice)
  6. 6. • • • • • • • • • • • • Electoral participation Political parties National formal organisations International organisations Voluntary groups with a civic function Religious organisations (Sub)cultural groups Social movements Protest actions Political consumerism Internet related activism Political attitudes (political involvement)
  7. 7.  Grassroots activities (as opposed to the top-down model) overlap with cause-oriented repertoires (focus specic issues and policy concerns) as opposed to citizenoriented actions (Norris, 2007)  Borderline between political and unpolitical, between private and public is increasingly blurred  Subactivism is a kind of politics that unfolds at the level of subjective experience and is submerged in the flow of everyday life. It is constituted by small-scale, often individual, decisions and actions that have either a political or ethical frame of reference (or both) and are difficult to capture using the traditional tools with which political participation is measured. (Bakardjieva 2009: 92)
  8. 8. Protesting in wider sense (strikes, boycotts, petitions, mass demonstrations etc Barnes and Kasse 1979) are not marginal but rather mainstream and everyday activities connected to lifestyle choices.  Cause-oriented repertoires have broadened engaging in ‘‘consumer’’ and ‘‘lifestyle’’ politics, line between the ‘‘social’’ and ‘‘political’’ breaks down even further 
  9. 9. Different types of movements mentioned: ecological, student, anarchist, genderrelated, single-issue etc. Finland, Germany, Greece, UK mentioned radical right movements. In some Eastern European countries not mentioned or non-existent (Germany, Hungary) or low involvement (Latvia)
  10. 10. Indirect political activism Activism through music, graffiti and football fans Skin-heads and neo-nazi groups (Croatia, Finland, Portugal, Slovakia, Latvia)
  11. 11. Protest (public meetings) has become quite popular way of activism (exception Georgia, Latvia, Hungary) Protest through cultural activity (subcultures) Micro-level protest (workplace and school) Mostly peaceful protest but radicalisation in Greece, UK with riots of excluded groups New trends (after review made) seeminagly evident in portugal and Spain
  12. 12. Refers to citizens’ consumer behaviour motivated by ethical, environmental, and political considerations Buycotting and Boycotting Very established in Germany, Finland, UK, Spain and Portugal Different patterns between Western and Eastern Europe (with the exception of Croatia and Estonia)
  13. 13. In general, increasingly use of Internet among the young people, generation @ Southern Europe, UK, Germany, Finland, Estonia, Slovakia very active. Different types of Internet activism: networking , mobilization, petitions. Permanent forums for movements and civic groups, radical groups (Finland)
  14. 14. Quite generalised activism but it seems different levels of civil society development (UK, Ger, Fin very spread in terms of civic activism) Most Eastearn European seems to be more marginal (low number) If there is some trend mentioned, there is an increase
  15. 15. Increase in grassroots/ subactivism recent years, especially different ways of protest  Generally more activism (based on literature) in Western-Europe compared to Eastern Europe 
  16. 16. • • • • • • • Authoritarian Communist regime and its destroyal of independent institutions caused popular distrust of the state The restoration of independence 1991 Political structure changed from a single-party rule to a parliamentary system, administrative institutions were reorganised, central planning changed to capitalist free market economy and society of shortages changed to consumer society. Success-oriented society with materialistic and individualistic values. Until recently strong support to liberal right-wing party Ethnic Estonians as initiators of social shange in nineties, citizenship law left many russian-speakers without citizenship Two different communities by language and culture and media influence.
  17. 17. Rise of social movements and community activism recent years  Rise of protest, strike and demonstration activities escpecially during 2012 (‘financing’ scandal; Acta; Charter 12; education reform)  High level internet use which influence internet activism (mostly discussions, sharing, reading, also petitions)  Still partly negative connotations to ‘activism’ 
  18. 18. Tartu - a regional centre with good perspective for development, university, lots of young people, mostly ethnic Estonian population (97%), 2012 unemployment rate 8%, avarage income 837 EUR per month.  Narva - ‘dying city’ which lost its industrial importance after collapse of Soviet union and have been characterised by high unemployment, aging population and social problems since, mostly Russian-speakers (%) 2012 unemplyment rate 17,5; avarage income 723 EUR 
  19. 19. Sample: 16-26 year olds  Fieldwork in late 2012 – early 2013  Survey n=634 in Tartu and n=617 Ida-Viru county  Open ended in-depth interviews with volunteers (29 and 31).  Coding in Nvivo 9.2 - open coding and axial coding in separate language, coordinated and finally united. 
  20. 20.  Theoretical ideas versus conventional meanings ◦ Tarmo, 21, Tartu County: /.../ still, the first idea that comes to my mind when I think about something political is that it is something that those statesmen solve and something that thus very indirectly affects me, that it is out of my reach /.../  Negative associations ◦ Ivari, 24, Tartu County: I don’t know, it seems to me, that ... has emerged, such a slight (2) clef, between the government and people or ... that such a distrust has arisen (3) /…/ altogether these political decisions, they do not, in such an immediate way … reach the people /.../ questions will arise and then ... doubts. That … that maybe they, those men who have been elected there, do not do their job properly.
  21. 21. Economic problems and ethnic tensions  State versus individual responsibility  ◦ Age, 22, Tartu County: unemployment allowances actually should not be very high /…/ simply people would think that well ... if I get approximately the same amount of money like for sitting at home then, well, why should I go /…/ I’ll do some moonlighting somewhere /…/ maybe a person should live a bit hard-pressed, before he gets it, that … that it is up to himself to ... bring it off and do something.
  22. 22.      Since mid-2000srevolutionary development of information technology solutions has influenced various levels of the society In Estonia, it coincided with replacement of the transition culture of the 1990s for network society. The most important change has been the decline in the influence of media corporations and official institutions. The web environment supports global communication and blooming of niche media, but it also broadens the possibilities for activism. The simplest form of political participation for modern youth - to express opinion through easy discussion, sharing or simply ‘liking’ the actions or subjects that seem important.
  23. 23.    Gerli, 18, Tartu County , Well, on Facebook, I don’t know, there are many different things that I have ‘liked’ and other things…. Directly, I don’t know, like participated in some bigger projects but who knows, maybe I have ‘liked’ something that has changed into something bigger, you could even be unaware of it yourself!   Oskar, 25, Tartu County, I have ‘liked’ some of these activities on Facebook and like that… like joined it … being against ACTA and all these… but Facebook… I don’t believe it changes anything, even though there are people who think that Facebook will change the world.
  24. 24. Ida-Viru County youth tended to be more sceptical about the impact of Internet activism  Alexander, 25, Ida-Viru County: To me, it seems that only people who have nothing to do get involved in it. It seems to me like this… they are some kind of obscure activists, it would be better for them to do some work instead – it seems like this to me. 
  25. 25.      Kristel, 25, Tartu County, When there is a topic that like interests me, for example, on Facebook somebody has posted on the wall, then I will, for example, read this article, right. Basically it works, if this would not be there, then I would not read it, but I am not myself like active in this sense.   Gerli, 18, Tartu County: How did the information about this reach you anyway? I remember I started looking these videos on YouTube, which were made by the Anonymous or this Legion, so to say /…/ And after that all kinds of information came from there, then I looked around in the Internet, did some more research.
  26. 26.   10% of the young people from the Tartu County and 2% from Ida-Viru County had uploaded political material to the Internet Tarmo, 21, Tartu County: I know a couple of people who constantly share something, one of them is the former president of the Students’ Union who all the time shares like these political articles and what Ministers have said, so I read these from time to time. I have very rarely shared something myself. For example, I remember that a couple of days ago I shared this video with a very strong message… this video against bullying. I felt that the problem is serious and it is necessary to do something there and so that my voice would be heard too.
  27. 27.  is an internet forum launched in 2010 by Central Union of Estonian Proprietors, where everyone can: ◦ initiate petitions ◦ organise various actions ◦ poll about relevant issues in society    21% of the Tartu County and 8% of the Ida-Viru County youth had signed petitions 6% in Tartu and 5% in Ida-Viru County had collected signatures themselves As petitsioon. ee is in Estonian and Russian-speakers have not equivalent environment.
  28. 28.   Ly, 23, Ida-Viru County: When this Charter 12 started, it was very interesting. We immediately joined the petition or I am not sure how to say it. When they did something about it in the Internet,, some thing, and then we joined. Lembit, 17, Tartu County: We have this Raja park and now they plan to build apartment houses there. I like sports, I am used to running there in summer, and when they opened the petition in the Internet, I signed that I am against this construction plan.
  29. 29. You have signed to several petitions?  Tartu, Oliver: It is because of the petitsioon. Ee I pay attention to where I sign my name on principle /.../ Normally I read it thoroughly   Tartu, Gerli: There was a thing going around, a petition of some sort where signatures or names were collected, I don’t remember what the topic was, my mother signed it, I think, and I did as well.
  30. 30. Financial limitation for not showing attitudes or political beliefs through consumption  16% from thee Tartu County and 4% from the IdaViru County admitted to have boycotted or purchased products for political, ethical, or environmental reasons. 
  31. 31.    Lyubov, 22, Ida-Viru County: I cannot imagine that France could insult me so gravely so that I would give up / laughs / the goods, buying their cosmetics, I don’t’ know.   Ege, 23, Tartu County: I haven’t arrived there yet, but more because I haven’t seen information like that anywhere, about some specific product. /…/ Don’t know, but if I’d really care about some idea and nonbuying would support this idea, then I would perhaps participate in this.
  32. 32.    Lifestyle choices as tactics of social change Kristel, 25, Tartu County: For example, this type of fish is being raised in a way that in my opinion is completely abnormal and for example eggs… I bought these there always… which were by these chickens who can run around outside… that they are not kept in some 20 cm sized cages… and… for example I do not buy Indian nuts / …/ I have heard that... Basically, they are being cleaned by some nasty chemicals and some small kids in India do that /…/. I don’t like directly to go to the Internet to find out more on how things are done or this and that. But I look into this food issue quite often. Georg, 16, Ida-Viru County: I mainly try to buy Estonian products … I think these are of high quality, reliable. I don't think they would like cheat on the inhabitants of their own country.
  33. 33.  Armand, 21, Ida-Viru County: Say “Estonian Flag Label” or like ‘Made in Estonia’, food products… the basic principle remains the same... I mean if I see that a product is of high quality but costs less, because patriotism or not, but the possibilities of the population should somehow be considered, I mean if I don't have the extra three euro required to pay for something, I will not pay them...
  34. 34.       Simmo, 24, Tartu County: I still prefer to buy Estonian things and more broadly like European things, in this sense I feel this European identity too in myself, so let’s say that if I could choose [among products] with equal prices or even if the European thing would cost a bit more than a Chinese or an American one, then I would still prefer the European one. Tarmo, 21, Tartu County: If you’re a student, you cannot really afford that… /…/ I don’t go to McDonalds as a matter of principle. /…/ McDonalds is like a huge American conglomerate and I don’t really know how good is the quality of their products. Tartu County : I don’t really like to buy Russian products. Not that I am like specifically against Russians but because I feel that I would be feeding with taxes an authoritarian regime like that.
  35. 35. Only (violent) riots took place in 2007 (sparked by moving the Soviet Unknown Soldier statue).  Protest, public meetingsduring 2012 (‘financing’ laundry scandal; Acta; Charter 12; education reform)  18%/8% of the respondents in Tartu county/IdaViru county had attended a public meeting dealing with political or social issues, 17%/6% had participated in demonstrations, 8%/3% in flash mobs, and 5%/5% in strikes. 
  36. 36. Lembit, 17, Tartu County: I think it’s a good thing that people speak openly about their opinions and we have freedom of speech and democracy after all. I think it’s normal that things like these happen. In my opinion, there should be more, so the state would hear what people think of issues like these.    
  37. 37. Participation differed radically at the two sites. In Tartumaa, most often discussed grassroots-level activism referring 2012  Oskar, 25, Tartu County: I am really against ACTA … well, I don’t believe in copyright at all /…/ this really was a positive experience, so many people were against it … because … young people … it’s understandable, but my parents were as well … uhm … they were protesting there too … Maybe older people were protesting against the … Reform Party … kind of like against Ansip’s government. 
  38. 38. In Ida-Viru County limited number of people had public demonstrations-related experiences; the riots in April 2007 were mentioned most often  Lev, 25, Ida-Viru County: Well... purely coincidentally in 2007, as a coincidence, well, a friend invited me, but it somehow turned out that… the crowd /…/ Without any preparations, if… they had wanted like... I don't know… overthrow... preparations would have been required… something like… at least some kind of fireworks… but, damn, everybody went like to a party /.../ thanks to Ansip, everybody remembered... remembered about the statue. 
  39. 39. At both sites, there were people who had never participated in demonstrations and considered this kind of protesting useless, stupid or dangerous.  Silvia, 19, Tartu County: When I watched the news, then it was like that basically every day there was some protest and I have not seen that something has changed.  So it’s like pointless?  Well, not like pointless, but not with a very good point either, rather gets you into trouble. /…./ I have heard that the police have arrested people. 
  40. 40. Mart, 25, Tartu County: I have told everybody who complain that things are really bad, that if you will not protest, then you actually have to be that peasant who eats potato peelings. Greeks and all are protesting now /.../ but Estonians do not find time for that, but find time to go drinking. /.../ If 10% of the people who say something about these issues in the Internet would show up at meetings, there would be a big crowd!    
  41. 41.    Sandra, 20, Tartu County: When this risk is really that high that our independence could again disappear. Russian-speakers more dependent on their peer group or role models   Armand, 21, Ida-Viru County:When Lauristin comes out to the streets, starts chanting /…/ when somebody of the professorial elite comes out and starts chanting something, when Lotman comes out to the street, perhaps then I will see that oh, they have come out, this means that things are bad or
  42. 42. Yelena, 26, Ida-Viru County: For example, what can be dangerous? Go to the streets, yell things there? Yes! Hang out a banner of some kind – yes. Something that involves the police – I don’t think so. I’m not dumb, why do something so stupid.  In case of extreme situation young people tended to see emigration as a solution to the situation, but excluded violent protests. 
  43. 43. This division between the two communities determines most of the perceptions and activities of young people.  Informants from Ida-Viru county tended to be less informed about different topics, less active in society, more pessimistic about their possible influence and more dependent on their peers.  Connected to the developments that started in the nineties. Whereas ethnic Estonians have been the initiators of the social change, many Russianspeakers have perceived changes in the society as imposed from outside and threatening their identity. 
  44. 44. Scandals and protests during the last years probably influenced negative attitudes towards politics, especially among Estonian speakers.  Estonians criticize politicians, but they do not distinguish themselves from the state or nation – ‘we, Estonian people’ against ‘them, alienated politicians’. Russian-speaking young people distinguish ‘us, Russian-speakers’ from ‘them, Estonians and their state’ 
  45. 45. In many cases young people are (politically) active without aknowledging it.  People tended to be the most engaged when something had a personal significance for them  Personal and the political connected (especially in political consumption).  Belief on one’ s ability to change something depends on position in society (including economic restrictionbs) and on the other hand recreates passivity (e.g. 