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Transforming the boundaries of collective identity: from the 'local' anti-road campaign to 'global' resistance?

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This paper is concerned with how people involved in 'local' protest might come to see themselves as part of wider social groupings and even global forces of resistance. An ethnographic study of the No M11 Link Road Campaign in London examines participants' definitions of their collective identity boundaries at different stages of involvement. Cross-sectional material from the beginning and later in the campaign shows that there was a transformation in collective identity boundaries towards a more inclusive definition of 'community'. Analysis of participants' accounts before and after involvement in the eviction of a tree suggests the role of conflict with the police in producing an oppositional definition of the collective identity, facilitating links to other groups in resistance to illegitimate authority. Finally, biographical material indicates the implications of transformed identity boundaries for co-action with wider social groups. It is argued that the same intra- and inter-group processes that determine how identity boundaries extend to include a broader community might account for how people come to see themselves as part of a global social movement.
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Keywords: Anti-roads protests; collective identity change; crowd behaviour

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology, School of Social Sciences, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9SN, UK School of Psychology, University of St Andrews, Fife, EY16 9JU, UK Department of Psychology, University of Liverpool, Bedford St. South, Liverpool, L69 72A, UK

Publication date: October 1, 2003

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