The introduction presents the main argument of the book: that political movement formation has paradoxical effects that simultaneously involve the creation of new possibilities and the re-entrenchment of hierarchical power. It also explains how the book advances law and society and law and social movement studies, the methodology employed, and the theory that undergirds the substantive book chapters. In particular, the introduction presents new theoretical concepts advanced throughout the course of the book, such as conceptualizing movement mobilization through intense, rights-based advocacy moments, or "rights episodes." It also introduces readers to the dynamics of inter- and intra-movement coalition formation through the eyes of some of the community workers interviewed for the book. The introduction ends with descriptions of each substantive chapter and the book's conclusion.
Chapter 1 theorizes, through the lens of the Referendum 74 campaign for marriage equality in Washington State, how rights episodes impact social movement formation. Many scholars see movements through the lens of single organizations that can easily pick and choose between using litigation or political venues to accomplish social change. Conceiving of rights as "episodes," however, emphasizes that much of group-driven social movement politics is not grand strategizing or tactical decisions about whether to fight in court or at the legislature. Rather, groups involved in political movement struggles are responding to different circumstances and threats, and no one has perfect agency or a purely strategic way of thinking. The chapter makes this apparent by explaining the dynamics of Washington State's marriage equality rights episode.
Chapter 2 is a historical analysis of coalition alignment around immigrant rights in Arizona, focusing on the rights episode that emerged out of SB 1070, the infamous "show me your papers" law, which allowed law enforcement officers to question and detain those who they suspect are undocumented immigrants. Following the passage of SB 1070, marginalized immigrant and queer and trans organizations in Arizona constructed a civic engagement coalition that conducted voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote efforts to increase their political capacity in the state. At the same time, SB 1070 also had some containing effects on movement mobilization by funneling movement advocacy into cyclical campaigns and centering the experiences of the most privileged constituencies within minority populations. Through an analysis of Arizona's SB 1070, this chapter delineates how rights struggles can operate as episodes that have paradoxical effects that at once expand and ossify political movements.
Chapter 3 addresses how the inter- and intra-movement coalitions described in the preceding chapters formed and why these coalitions were often unable to successfully pursue issues designed to uproot power. This chapter delineates which factors contributed to the simultaneous expansion and contraction of inter- and intra-movement coalitions in Washington and Arizona based on an analysis of patterns across in-depth interviews with organization leaders, advocates, and community workers. The chapter argues that the creation of a narrative of a common political movement past based on shared opponents facilitated the formation of coalitions in both states and, in doing so, expanded movement mobilization. Simultaneously, however, the formation of this collective past constrained political movements by reinforcing historical exclusions based on power. Chapter 3 ends with a discussion of how the formation of inter- and intra-movement alliances within both states tended to fracture and contain movements.
Chapter 4 examines how intersectionally marginalized subgroups within movements have in some contexts strategically pushed back against the movement contraction discussed in the previous chapters. I argue that these intersectional translators are tactically important because (1) they combat the constraints of a discrete rights focus by demonstrating how this is strategically shortsighted and how adopting a long-term commitment to undoing systemic oppression is in the interests of coalition partners, and (2) they call attention to the fact that inadequate commitment to the most marginal is a failure to advance justice. This chapter demonstrates how intersectional translators create opportunities for political movement formation through participating in and intentionally utilizing rights campaigns as resources for more expansionist ends; through the construction of new groups and subgroups; and through educational outreach and in-depth conversations across and within mainstream and marginalized movement organizations.
The concluding chapter provides suggestions, based on the analysis related in each chapter, for avoiding marginalization and movement containment in some contexts. The chapter delineates four ways that political movement actors can minimize coalition fragmentation: (1) by constructing a shared movement past and highlighting common opponents both during and after rights campaigns; (2) by devoting more resources to marginalized groups and individuals and providing opportunities for them to lead coalition organizing; (3) by adopting an expansionist commitment to movement formation through a politics of solidarity and through strategically using rights campaigns to further this commitment; and (4) by forming nonpartisan institutionalized grassroots advocacy networks. This chapter ends with an examination of specific inter- and intra-movement coalitions that have successfully adopted some of these suggestions.