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The dialectics of domination and resistance: Managing and maintaining dialectical tensions in organizing for social change

Patricia A Hawk, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This critical/interpretive study examines the dialectic of domination and resistance as it is experienced and expressed by a small social movement organization (SMO) in one diocese of the United States Roman Catholic Church. Unlike much of the research on domination and resistance, this study explores the dialectic of domination and resistance from the perspective of organized resisters. The study considers the role narrative plays in maintaining organizational identification and intraorganizational social control as members challenge the dominant meaning and power structures in the local Catholic diocese. This research is understood from the perspective of an organizational insider. Seventeen members of Call To Action-Lincoln (CTAL) participated in the study. Stories were gathered during personal interviews with each active member of the organization1, participant observation, and archival research. The resulting narratives suggest that members experience at least three dialectical tensions as they organize for social change: the dialectic of traditionalism and progressivism, the dialectic of community and personal activism, and the dialectic of resilience and resignation. CTAL remains cohesive because members are encouraged to manage and maintain these tensions during regular organizational dialogues. CTAL's experience with dialogic organizing demonstrates that a SMO may endure because members recognize and embrace the dialectical tensions inside their organization. Rather than seeking unanimity of opinion, this SMO engages in organized discernment as a means of stretching their understanding of themselves and the organization. Dialogic organizing may have implications for other organizations. By managing and maintaining natural dialectical tensions, organizations may be better able to adapt to shifting environmental circumstances and tap into the diverse experiences of organizational members.^ 1Two active members were not included in the research: a member of this research committee and the primary researchers' spouse. ^

Subject Area

Religion, General|Speech Communication

Recommended Citation

Hawk, Patricia A, "The dialectics of domination and resistance: Managing and maintaining dialectical tensions in organizing for social change" (2007). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3252835.