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

5 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)
JournalSocial Movement Studies
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science


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