Metaphoric Analysis of a Shipyard Union Dispute: Theory and Method in the Cultural Analysis of Collective Action Page: 1
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Metaphoric Analysis of a Shipyard Union Dispute:
Theory and Method in the Cultural Analysis of Collective Action
Rather than treating grievances and political opportunities as objective, given, and exogenous to
organized movement groups, cultural analysts of social movements have recently focused on cognitive
and linguistic processes by which factors relevant to collective behavior are themselves interpreted
collectively. Theoretical and empirical studies within this tradition have investigated an array of issues
including cognition, ideology, and identity (e.g. Johnston and Klandermans 1995; Kubal 1998; Polletta
1998; Tarrow 1992; Jasper 1997). Much recent work, including papers by Fine (1995), Billig (1995,1992,
1991), Johnston (1995, 2002, 2005), MacLean (1998), and Steinberg (1998, 1999, 2000), has begun to
focus explicitly on the role of language within social movements and other political processes. Fine, for
example, examined narrative framing on the part of VOCAL ("Victims of Child Abuse Laws"), a social
movement founded in response to a series of well-publicized cases involving parents wrongly charged
with abusing their children (Fine 1995: 138). Steinberg (2000; 1999), in a more elaborate series of studies
of the rhetoric of organized cotton spinners and weavers in early 19th century England, has developed a
"dialogic" approach to social movement culture inspired by the early twentieth century literary theorists
Bakhtin and Volosinov , and by the writings of a number of "rhetorical" social psychologists, including
Billig (1995, 1992, 1991). McLean (1998), taking an alternate theoretical tack, has investigated the
political culture of Renaissance Italy through both quantitative and qualitative content analyses of
patronage-seeking letters. His results show the discourse evident in the letters to be irreducible to the
social positions of the writers. Instead, the writers were found to develop "frames of meaning" by
assembling cues available from their cultural backgrounds, in order to build relationships and improve
their social standings and careers. As with the work of Fine and Steinberg, McLean treats political culture
as an analytically autonomous factor, irreducible to social and political structures, analyzable via content
analysis, and having demonstrable sociopolitical consequences.
While cultural analysts generally view culture-approximately, the "symbolic-expressive" aspect
of human social behavior (Wuthnow 1984)-as both irreducible to economic and political factors and
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Ignatow, Gabriel. Metaphoric Analysis of a Shipyard Union Dispute: Theory and Method in the Cultural Analysis of Collective Action, chapter, February 2009; [Farnham, United Kingdom]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc78308/m1/1/: accessed November 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Arts and Sciences.