Now and again: Eventful experience as a resource in senior activism

Gary Alan Fine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Shared memories shape relations among social movement participants and their organizations. However, scholars often ignore how experience operates as a means of solidifying attachment in group contexts. In contrast, I argue that activism depends on how participants publicly recall events. In this, I integrate a social memory perspective with the examination of activist movements. Through narrative, participants build engagement by presenting the self-in-history as a model for collective action. I refer to this as eventful experience, utilizing memorable moments as a resource for generating commitment. Movements depend upon members communicating the critical moments of their lives, embedding personal timelines in group culture. The linkage of personal experience and public events is a strategy by which individuals motivate collective action. Drawing on a thirty-month ethnography of a progressive senior citizen activist group in Chicago, I examine how members use an awareness of temporality to build a culture of action. Each movement group uses the past experiences of participants to build their culture – what Jasper refers to as taste in tactics, incorporating past successes, present plans, and imagined futures into a call for direct action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)576-591
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Movement Studies
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - 2020


  • Senior citizens
  • culture
  • ethnography
  • events
  • experience
  • memory
  • narrative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science


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