Gary Alan FineFeb 26, 2023
Senior Activism, Tiny Publics, and the Culture of Resistance
University of Chicago Press 2023
If you’ve ever been to a protest or been involved in a movement for social change, you have likely experienced a local culture, one with slogans, jargon, and shared 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. While seniors are a notoriously important—and historically conservative—political cohort, the group Fine calls “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 its demands for broad social change. In investigating 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?
Michael O. Johnston, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at William Penn University. He is the author of Community Media Representations of Place and Identity at Tug Fest: Reconstructing the Mississippi River (Lexington, 2022). His general area of study is on media representations of people and place at festivals and celebrations. He is currently working on his next book where he conducted research on an annual canoeing and kayaking event that takes place on the Upper Mississippi River. To learn more about Michael O. Johnston you can go to his website, Google Scholar, Twitter @ProfessorJohnst, or by email at email@example.com.