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Title: Why frames are not enough : frames, narratives and meaning making accounts or the discursive mechanisms through which political activists understand their actions
Author: Werner, Mirjam Danielle
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis elaborates theory on the understanding of meaning making processes at the micro level through which political activists come to understand, interpret and give meaning to their experiences. It argues that though framing theory offers insights into the strategic and instrumental use of contested meaning making processes in mounting actions, it is not enough to explain what happens before a contentious political situation is constructed strategically with the aim to mobilise others. By linking framing theory with a body of literature called sensemaking theory from organisation studies, however, it is possible to gain a better understanding of the dynamics that to come into play when and how individual activists come to interpret and understand their situation and actions in a certain way in a' self-referential manner. Integrating these two theoretical approaches in a theoretical framework thus captures both sides of the process of meaning making at the micro level, and allows for a deeper comprehension of the 'micro-foundations' of political activism. The thesis furthermore sets a first step to explore the implications of the theoretical framework in more detail, both methodologically and empirically, through a study of the meaning making accounts of Dutch political activists. The analysis of the discursive utterances of 23 in-depth interviews with activists from radical activist group GroenFront!, the more moderate activist network Referendum Platform Nederland and a group of individual citizen activists provided insights into the different dimensions which affect the form and content of meaning making accounts. The analysis has allowed for a refinement of the theoretical framework and the development of a typology of meaning making accounts which implies the need for a more dynamic and processual approach to understanding the meaning making of political activists. The thesis thus demonstrates the importance of studying the meaning making processes of activists which" precede any strategic and externally directed framing processes. As such, it allows for a much deeper understanding of the meaning making processes that underlie, activate and ultimately decide the success or failure of political activism. The implications for existing theory and research involve a fundamental extension of framing theory in the field of social movements and the need for interpretive and processual studies at the micro level of individual activists and the way in which they give meaning to their political reality
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available