American Sociological Association

Who Is This “We” You Speak of? Grounding Activist Identity in Social Psychology

What is an activist identity? Prior answers have focused almost exclusively on collective identity, without (a) considering the possibility of role-based identities or (b) grounding collective identities in broader social-psychological theories. The present study investigates activist identity through the lens of role-based and category-based identities and reports two major findings. First, there is a distinct role-based activist identity, one that involves internalizing role responsibilities and the expectations of friends and family. Second, collective identity represents a relationship between a social identity and an injustice frame; it either involves incorporating an injustice frame into a preexisting social identity or using the injustice frame to create a new in-group. The present findings help to illuminate the processes underlying collective identity, indicate that a great deal of role-based activist identity is mistaken for collective identity, and suggest new directions for the study of micro-mobilization and organizational forms and tactics in social movements.

Download PDF


Jonathan Horowitz



Starting Page


Ending Page