Lifestyle Politics and Radical Activism
This book is a study of how anarchists in the contemporary United States enact their political ideals in their everyday lives. In it, I explain the cultural work that goes into the production of resistant lifestyles and probe the limitations associated with this mode of activism. Individual chapters cover a range of lifestyle practices from consumption habits, to expressions of personal style and identity, to sexuality and romantic relationships. The book also delves into ongoing controversies around the figure of the “lifestyle anarchist,” bringing theories of communication, identity, and power to bear on the critiques of subcultural lifestylism that emerge both within and outside of the anarchist movement. The insights drawn from the experiences of contemporary anarchists are widely applicable, aiding in our understanding of cultural resistance in the context of neoliberalism.
"More than a mere account of 'lifestyle activism' in the current US anarchist movement, Lifestyle Politics and Radical Activism is a meditation on the possibilities and limitations of a politics of individual choice and expression. In this grounded study, Portwood-Stacer deftly explores the largely unmapped territory between intent and effect, identity and agency, and the personal and the political. The result is an essential guide for anyone who wants to understand activism in a time of neoliberalism." -- Stephen Duncombe
"Lifestyle Politics and Radical Activism provides a lucid, concise, and thoughtful depiction and analysis of a widely misrepresented segment of contemporary anarchism, and also offers important insights on culture politics more generally. Useful for scholars, students, and activists alike." --T.V. Reed
"The Traffic in Feminism"
Feminist Media Studies (2017)
Co-authored with Sarah Banet-Weiser
Forthcoming in Anarchism: A Conceptual Approach
Forthcoming in Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, 2nd ed.
"Feminism and Participation: A Complicated Relationship"
Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies (2014)
Part of a Forum on Critical Feminist Interventions in New Media Studies, published in Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies. Based on a panel organized by Amy Adele Hasinoff at the 2013 National Communication Association conference.
"Media Refusal and Conspicuous Non-Consumption: The Performative and Political Dimensions of Facebook Abstention"
New Media and Society (2012)
This paper is a study of consumer resistance among active abstainers of the Facebook social network site. I analyze the discourses invoked by individuals who consciously choose to abstain from participation on the ubiquitous Facebook platform. This discourse analysis draws from approximately 100 web and print publications from 2006 to early 2012, as well as personal interviews conducted with twenty Facebook abstainers. I conceptualize Facebook abstention as a performative mode of resistance, which must be understood within the context of a neoliberal consumer culture, in which subjects are empowered to act through consumption choices—or in this case non-consumption choices—and through the public display of those choices. I argue that such public displays are always at risk of misinterpretation due to the dominant discursive frameworks through which abstention is given meaning. This paper gives particular attention to the ways in which connotations of taste and distinction are invoked by refusers through their conspicuous displays of non-consumption. This has the effect of framing refusal as a performance of elitism, which may work against observers interpreting conscientious refusal as a persuasive and emulable practice of critique. The implication of this is that refusal is a limited tactic of political engagement where media platforms are concerned.
How We Talk About Media Refusal: Addiction
How We Talk About Media Refusal: Asceticism
How We Talk About Media Refusal: Aesthetics
Anti-Consumption as Tactical Resistance: Anarchists, Subculture, and Activist Strategy.
Journal of Consumer Culture (2012)
This article examines practices of anti-consumption deployed by anarchist activists as tactical actions within their overall projects of political and subcultural resistance. Drawing on existing literature on anti-consumers, my own interviews with anti-consumers, and analysis of materials that circulate in support of anti-consumption, I explore both the material and discursive effects of anti-consumption within a specific political subculture. I offer a typology of motivations for anti-consumption among activists, as well as a discussion of how overlaps and conflicts between various motivations complicate assessments of lifestyle-based resistance. I ultimately argue that the analysis I offer can prove helpful to political projects that utilize consumption-based tactics, in the construction and evaluation of effective activist strategies.
Occupy Wall Street as Media Criticism Classroom
“Constructing Anarchist Sexuality: Queer Identity, Culture, and Politics in the Anarchist Movement.” Sexualities 13(4). 2010.
This article explores the articulation of queer sexuality with anarchist identity. Drawing on interviews and participant observation in the contemporary North American anarchist movement, I show that queer critique is typical among self-identified anarchists. Anarchist movement culture serves as a medium for the circulation of discourses around sexuality and anarchist identity, as well as supports individuals in their own queer practices of resistance against dominant sexual norms. However, subcultural investments in notions of authenticity may serve to detract from the political potential to be found within anarchist culture. This article ultimately concludes that the strong movement culture and its investment in authentic identity can prove useful for anarchist political projects, but that ‘anarchonormativity’ must be wielded strategically, taking into account its many potential effects.
“‘Me, Only Better!’: Reality Makeover Television and Post-Feminist Gender Ideology.” In Race/Gender/Media, ed. Rebecca A. Lind. Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon, 2010.
This chapter analyzes reality makeover shows as products of a post-feminist culture. I argue that the site of women’s empowerment is often the commercial sphere, and that shows such as The Swan and Extreme Makeover perpetuate the ideology that individualist consumption is an important means of feminine empowerment.
“‘I Just Want to Be Me Again!’: Beauty Pageants, Reality Television, and Post-feminism” (co-authored with Sarah Banet-Weiser). Feminist Theory 7(2). 2006.
This essay examines the connections between the Miss America pageant and reality makeover television shows. We argue that televised performances of gender have shifted focus from the intensely scripted, out-of-touch Miss America to reality makeover shows that normalize cosmetic surgery as a means to become the ‘ideal’ woman. While both spectacles offer their viewers performances of femininity, these performances need to be understood as emerging from the cultural and political conditions in which they are produced. This difference in presentation of the subjects of beauty pageants and makeover programmes speaks respectively to the changing role of media in the normalization of performances of femininity, as well as to the affiliation of many young women with post-feminist politics in the United States.