Is ‘activist’ a dirty word? Place identity, activism and unconventional gas development across three continents

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Luke, H, Rasch, ED, Evensen, D & Kohne, M in press, 'Is ‘activist’ a dirty word? Place identity, activism and unconventional gas development across three continents', The Extractive Industries and Society.

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Communities respond to unconventional gas in a variety of ways. In some communities, industry has held a social license, while in other areas, industrial development has been slowed, halted, or prevented by social resistance. Repeatedly, across multiple nations and communities, we have observed that social identities that either incorporate or eschew activism intersect with perceptions of this development’s effect on place identity to either foster or discourage opposition. Particularly interesting are cases in which fracking is perceived to threaten local place identity, but where activism conflicts with social identity. To mobilise different sectors of the population, it often appears important for local residents to be perceived as ‘regular citizens’ and not as activists. We explore how intersection of social identities and place identity shaped the different ways in which communities in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and the United States have responded to unconventional gas development. Communities resisting development often see ‘activism’ as something that ‘outsiders’ do and that must be rejected as insufficiently objective and neutral. This view of activism and activists produces specific forms of resistance that differ from typical ‘activist’ actions, in which ‘knowledge’, ‘information’, neutrality, and objectivity are particularly important.

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