Life After Occupy

Project: 85
Name: George Ciccariello-Maher (; 510-599-6123)
Department: History and Politics
Academic Area: Political Science/Sociology

Title: Life After Occupy

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has fundamentally shifted the terms of political discourse in the United States, but it remains unclear where this trajectory will lead in the months and years to come. While some occupiers are looking toward either local or national elections, the vast majority have rejected this possibility and continue to press forward with experiments in local self-governance, direct democracy, and popular political struggles around a variety of issues. This project seeks to grasp where the Occupy Movement came from, how to understand it within the broader history of social movement dynamics, and finally where it might be headed in the future. / / We will approach these questions through a combination of the theoretical framework provided by social movement theorists, study of the appearance, dynamics, and ostensible disappearance of Occupy, and interaction with the occupiers themselves (including but not limited to interviews, surveys, participation in General Assemblies, etc). / / Some of the questions we will seek to answer include: / / What accounts for the breadth of Occupy’s populist appeal? Who participated in Occupy at the beginning, and did this change over time? What sorts of demands did/does it make, and how have these demands shifted? Did Occupy speak to all Americans, or to a select few? What does the idea of “the 99%” really mean, and is it a valid measure of American society? Is/was Occupy a national or a fundamentally local phenomenon? How did national and local authorities understand, interact with, and finally forcibly eliminate the occupations?

Associated Independent Study:
If he or she wishes, the student may undertake a 3-credit independent study that situates the Occupy phenomenon within the history of social movements and their political dynamics. The final outcome would be a research paper that situates Occupy within social movement theory, details its genesis, development, and demise, and assesses its future prospects.

Gained Experience:
The student will develop their skills on a number of levels which, depending on their aspirations, could be quite useful. Firstly, s/he will develop the capacity to undertake theoretical research with relative independency. Secondly, this theoretical research will then inform more concrete and empirical research. Thirdly, in the tying together of both these strands, the student will develop the capacity to undertake independent scholarly production in a way that will be both developmentally beneficial and may also yield co-authorship credit.

I am currently writing two book chapters on the Occupy Movement for inclusion in forthcoming edited volumes. During the summer, I will be finalizing these with input from the humanities fellow, as well as assessing whether or not this research will become a book-length project or another, possibly co-authored journal article.

The first stage of the fellow's project will be focused on research into the history and theory of social movement dynamics. With this framework established, the student will then research the Occupy Movement as a phenomenon, before finally interfacing with some of the remaining elements of the movement in Philadelphia and possibly in New York (depending on the state of these movements over the summer).

The work will largely be located in Philadelphia: firstly in the Drexel library during the initial, research phase, and later in Center City (the Friends Center, where Occupy General Assemblies are held), as well as possibly in Manhattan.

Yes, a weekly check-in.

Interview Availability:
April 16, April 17, April 18