Global activism and collective identities: A comparative analysis of their evolution in the Grand Council of the Crees, the Saami Council and Medecins Sans Frontieres-Canada, 1990-2005

Kristina Maud Bergeron
Dept. of Political Science, McMaster University
July, 2008
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The dissertation examines the evolution of global activism and collective identities for three small non-governmental organizations: the Grand Council of the Crees, the Saami Council, and Mecins Sans Fronties-Canada. The three organizations are considered over a period of fifteen years, from 1990 to 2005. Global activism is an aspect of globalization that can take many different forms, as the three cases show. The study looks at the objectives pursued through global activism and the arguments used by the organizations, the alliances they create and the publics they target to achieve their objectives. From well-organized campaigns to sporadic interventions in global forums, the diversity in the forms of global activism demonstrates the creativity of the organizations and the different issues for which global activism is considered useful. Small groups can participate in the debates surrounding globalization, and sometimes create the spaces in which these debates can take place. The identity at the core of each organization has changed over the period studied. By looking at the self-definition of the organization, its actual roles and power, its leadership, and its relationships with its membership or the people it represents, one can understand better this evolution and how it is related to the global activism carried out by each organization. There are connections between these changes in identities and activism, and the comparative analysis presented in the dissertation illustrates how taking part in globalization can change an organization and allow it to reach its objectives.