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"Alliance-Building Across Social Movements: Bridging Difference in a Peace and Justice Coalition" by Thomas D. Beamish and Amy J. Luebbers published in Social Problems

Alliance building across social movement groups is an important aspect of social movement dynamics, contributing to their viability and capacity to promote social change. Yet, with few exceptions, cross-movement coalitions have received little sustained theoretical or empirical attention.

This article contributes to an understanding of cross-movement coalition building through the examination of a successful case of alliance: a coalition of environmental justice and peace and anti-weapons proliferation groups to stop a federally funded U.S. biodefense laboratory from being built and operated in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Cross-movement collaboration was challenged by tensions arising from differences in positionality. Positional differences reflect status distinctions such as race, class, gender, and place and the differential experiences and expectations that result. Nonetheless, this coalition was able to resolve positional tensions and, as a result, remained a viable protest vehicle. We found this was accomplished through a cross-movement bridging process that involved (1) cause affirmation, (2) strategic deployment, (3) exclusion, and (4) co-development of cross-movement commitments. We extend existent accounts of cross-movement coalition by providing both a culturally founded and fine-grained account of coalition work in the maintenance of alliance relations. The article and its conclusions also address the broader implications of understanding successful trans-positional cross-movement alliances.


Thomas D. Beamish and Amy J. Luebbers. 2009. “Alliance-Building Across Social Movements: Bridging Difference in a Peace and Justice Coalition.” Social Problems. November, Volume 56, Number 4.


Keywords: social movements, coalitions, environmental justice, peace movement, microdynamics.