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Making Sense of the Social Forum: On the Local Framing of a Fashionable Global Symbol
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Studies in Adult, Popular and Higher Education. Linköping University, Faculty of Educational Sciences. (Vuxenpedagogik och folkbildning)
2009 (English)In: Journal of contemporary ethnography, ISSN 0891-2416, Vol. 38, no 4, 435-464 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The worldwide emergence of Social Forums (SF), originating from Porto Alegre (Brazil) in 2001, is a key element in the movement for global justice. A growing body of literature on the forums concerns its function as a transnational venue for civil society and a global symbol for resistance against neoliberalism. However, little empirical research is carried out on the local meanings of the widespread SFs. This article reports on a case study on the organizational process of a local forum in a Swedish town. The analysis focuses on intracoalitional interaction among activists from the labor movement, Attac, and a local cultural institution. The importance of considering local framing processes and the often-neglected influence of fashion when studying the emergence of SFs is emphasized. Findings show how the dichotomy the Old versus the New became crucial in the framing process. Framed as a novelty contrasted with "old" socialist values, the SF was rejected by the labor movement activists as just another expression of a contemporary neoliberal trend of depoliticization. Implications for the study of the social forum phenomenon are discussed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications , 2009. Vol. 38, no 4, 435-464 p.
Keyword [en]
social movement organizations; social forums; framing; fashion
National Category
Social Anthropology Pedagogy
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-20081DOI: 10.1177/0891241608330355OAI: diva2:233055
The final, definitive version of this paper has been published in: Journal of contemporary ethnography, (38), 4, 435-464, 2009. Henrik Nordvall, Making Sense of the Social Forum: On the Local Framing of a Fashionable Global Symbol by SAGE Publications Ltd, All rights reserved. Available from: 2009-08-27 Created: 2009-08-27 Last updated: 2010-01-13
In thesis
1. I skärningspunkten mellan det globala och det lokala: Tolkningsprocesser och koalitionsbyggande i organiseringen av lokala sociala forum
Open this publication in new window or tab >>I skärningspunkten mellan det globala och det lokala: Tolkningsprocesser och koalitionsbyggande i organiseringen av lokala sociala forum
2008 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

World Social Forum, and the worldwide appearance of regional, national and local Social Forums (SF), is an important part of the movement for global justice. The aim of this thesis is to explore how the SF as a global phenomenon is interpreted and staged locally in Sweden. Central questions are: What local meanings are given to the SF phenomenon when it is introduced and organized in a local context? What relations are created between the various actors in this organizational process in terms of coalitions and power relations? How do the SFs relate to the Swedish institutionalized popular adult education? These questions are explored in the four articles on which this thesis rests. Ethnographic field studies of local organizational processes constitute the empirical basis of theoretically informed hermeneutic interpretations. A neo-gramscian perspective is used to analyze the SF as a potentially counter-hegemonic popular education phenomenon. This perspective has been complemented by mainly two theoretical concepts, that is, framing and symbolic capital. Results demonstrate how the emergence of SFs in Sweden is characterized by a widespread desire among various activists and organizations to build coalitions. In the establishment of SFs the institutionalized popular adult education play both the role of a source of economic and material resources and of being a link between various organizations. However, in the wide and formally open organizational process, specific distinctions and hierarchies arise that might neutralize the SF’s ideological impact and its potential for counter-hegemonic coalition construction. Finally, a Swedish academic debate on the concept of “folkbildning” (popular adult education) is addressed. It is argued that there is a need to widen the scope of this debate to more frequently focus on global (popular) educational phenomena (such as the social forums) in research on “folkbildning”, and not only pay attention to “typical” national or Nordic institutions and traditions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Institutionen för beteendevetenskap och lärande, 2008. 87 p.
Linköping Studies in Behavioural Science, ISSN 1654-2029 ; 125
Social Forums, popular adult education, ethnography, counter-hegemonic coalitions, framing, symbolic capital.
National Category
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-11085 (URN)978-91-85523-00-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2008-01-31, I:101, Hus I, Campus Valla, Linköpings Universitet, Linköping, 13:15 (English)
Available from: 2008-02-20 Created: 2008-02-20 Last updated: 2010-01-13Bibliographically approved

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