Academia Becomes Occupied With Occupy Movement

Academics across the country have embraced the movement since it emerged in September, organizing classes, publishing reams of commentary and issuing calls to “occupy” not just Wall Street but also sociology, anthropology, history, philosophy or the entire “academic vampire squid”itself, as a poster for a session at the recent annual meeting of the International Studies Association put it…

Some researchers also say that the sympathy many academics feel for the movement risks undermining objective research.

Edward Maguire, a criminologist at American University who is leading a study of attitudes toward the police and the law among Occupy protesters in six cities, cited an incident in which one research assistant at a demonstration in Washington in March “handed in her ID, turned in her clipboard and within minutes got arrested.”

“Part of where our research is heading is making recommendations to police departments,” he said. “When they look at our research, I want them to trust it. Having people involved in the movement wouldn’t work for us.”

Yet scholars in disciplines with a long tradition of participant-observer research say that direct involvement can offer a better understanding of a movement’s internal dynamics.

“Everybody I know doing this is an activist of some sort,” said Jeffrey Juris, an associate professor of anthropology at Northeastern University who is organizing strategy workshops for Occupy Boston while also studying it. “But Occupy is so open and broad based, it doesn’t take much to consider yourself an activist.”

Academia Becomes Occupied With Occupy Movement – NY Times

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