Knowledge Practices of Social Movements

#sitzdazu: Sitzaktion der Studierenden der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin im Rahmen der Klimawoche/Public Climate School von Fridays For Future bzw. Studis For Future, Berlin, 27.11.19

Activists in social movements produce and disseminate knowledge. They popularize potentially subversive “counter-knowledge” and challenge generally accepted epistemologies. They use and criticize scientific expertise and influence scientific trends. This is shown by recent examples of contemporary history: The student movement and their “counter-universities”; the ecological think tanks like the Öko-Institut-Freiburg, the production of feminist knowledge as well as the confrontation between Fridays for Future and climate science or the “Querdenker” movement.

The impact of this movement knowledge can be described in two ways. Firstly, aspects of the knowledge take on central importance for the constitution, self- understanding, political agitation and the effect of social movements. Secondly, constitutional developing processes and conflicts around social movements are a key to understand modern societies since the 1960s. Indispensable elements of those societies are specific scientifical trends and resulting social and political conflicts.

However, the use of epistemologies by social movements to produce and establish knowledge, as well as the content and forms of movement knowledge, isn’t systematically examined yet. Therefore since 2019, a group of scientists from history; sociology; ethnology; law, media and political science do research on the relation between knowledge and social movements at the University of Konstanz.

The interdisciplinary group combines movement research with the historical and sociological element of knowledge. The result is an extension of movement research in cultural studies. The historical aspect of developing and establishing movement knowledge gets connected with the self-perception of activists, their image through media and institutional settings and normative beliefs.