Transnational coordination is a key aspiration of activists seeking to mobilize globally, yet the literature pays insufficient attention to the impact of cultural differences on transnational networking. In this article I draw on ethnographic data from three European autonomous social movement encounters in the Global Justice Movement (2002–2004) to demonstrate the impact of culture clashes between activists on transna- tional networking. I use the concept of habitus to explore how routinized, taken for granted, symbolic systems of meaning that individuals from shared locations have in common shape their interactions in transnational encounters. This conception of culture is underutilized in social movement analysis yet offers important insights into internal movement dynamics. I argue that despite the autonomous commitment to radical open- ness and plurality, a lack of attention to the empirical reality of place-based activist subcul- tures and habitus actually works against the “cosmopolitanism” that many activists and scholars aspire to.
I would like to thank Clare Saunders, Christoph Haug, Colin Barker, Jeremy Shulz and Lesley Wood for helpful feedback, suggestions or enthusiasm. As usual, this does not imply their endorsement of these arguments. Thank you to Britta Baumgarten, Priska Daphi, Peter Ullrich and the participants in the Culture/Protest workshops in Berlin, especially Erik Neveu and Andreas Petenkoffer, for very helpful criticism on the theoretical treatment of habit(us). Thank you also to the anonymous reviewers and the editors of Antipode for their constructive criticism which improved the final version. I am grateful for funding from the John L. Simpson Foundation, the German Marshall Fund, and the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship. As always, my heartfelt thanks to all the activists who share their thoughts, spaces and experiences with me and without whom my work would be impossible.
- autonomous movements
- transnational networks
- Global Justice Movement