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Fair Share

Senior Activism, Tiny Publics, and the Culture of Resistance

Fair Share

Senior Activism, Tiny Publics, and the Culture of Resistance

A deeply researched ethnographic portrait of progressive senior activists in Chicago who demonstrate how a tiny public wields collective power to advocate for broad social change. 

If you've ever been to a protest or been involved in a social movement, you have likely experienced a local culture, one with slogans, jargon, and social commitments. Though one might think of a cohort of youthful organizers when imagining protest culture, this powerful ethnography from esteemed sociologist Gary Alan Fine explores the world of senior citizens on the front lines of progressive protests, specifically those involved in a locally prominent activist group founded in the 1970s. While seniors are a notoriously important—and historically conservative—political cohort, “Chicago Seniors Together” is a decidedly leftist organization, inspired by the model of Saul Alinsky. The group advocates for social issues, such as affordable housing and healthcare, that affect all sectors of society but take on a particular urgency in the lives of seniors. Seniors connect and mobilize around their distinct experiences but do so in service of concerns that extend beyond themselves. Not only do these seniors experience social issues as seniors—but they use their age as a dramatic visual in advocating for political change. In Fair Share, Fine brings readers into the vital world of an overlooked political group, describing how a “tiny public” mobilizes their group's demands for broad social change. In this process, he shows that senior citizen activists are particularly savvy about using age to their advantage in social movements. After all, what could be more attention-grabbing than a group of passionate older people determinedly shuffling through snowy streets with canes, in wheelchairs, and holding walkers to demand healthcare equity, risking their own health in the process?
 

Table of Contents

Prologue: A Snowy Day in Racine
Introduction: Of Seniors, for Seniors
1 Causes, Commitment, and Culture
2 Coming of Age
3 Where the Actions Are
4 Movement Memories and Eventful Experience
5 Staff Power and Senior Authority
6 Diversities
7 The Nexus of Politics
8 Our Fair Share
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

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