27. Social Movements

  1. Donald M. Nonini
  1. Michal Osterweil

Published Online: 21 MAR 2014

DOI: 10.1002/9781118378625.ch27

A Companion to Urban Anthropology

A Companion to Urban Anthropology

How to Cite

Osterweil, M. (2014) Social Movements, in A Companion to Urban Anthropology (ed D. M. Nonini), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118378625.ch27

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 21 MAR 2014
  2. Published Print: 6 MAY 2014

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781444330106

Online ISBN: 9781118378625



  • social change;
  • cultural politics;
  • knowledge practices;
  • meaning making;
  • complexity;
  • everyday life


This essay reviews promising anthropological avenues for the study of social movements. It argues that while anthropologists have historically been relatively marginal to the field of research dedicated to their study – a field dominated by sociology and political science – a renewed engagement by anthropologists today can help make sense of social movements as history makers, rather than as relatively fixed and neutral parts of a stable political order. Anthropology's ethnographic ethos, its attentiveness to both complexity and difference allows it to make sense of practices often missed or ignored by approaches that take the state and the political to be universal categories. It can consider rich practices ranging from remaking urban spaces to incorporate peasant lifeways, to the creation of recursive publics online and in the streets, as part of the political potency and effects of social movements today.