What happens on the backstage? Emotion work and LGBTQ activism in a collectivist culture

Author: Yên Mai1
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  • 1 Uppsala University, , Sweden
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The tendency of scholars to conflate ‘social movement’ with ‘protest’ has resulted in a significant lack of studies addressing activists’ emotions in contexts other than public mobilisations. Filling this gap in research, this study moves the focus beyond the frontstage of social movements to investigate how activists, on the backstage, engage in emotion work to cope with the challenges of activism. The data come from in-depth interviews with 12 LGBTQ activists, from the author’s participant observation at an activist training programme organised by a Vietnamese NGO, and from the author’s field notes. The findings reveal a dissonance between the positivity portrayed by the activists on the frontstage and the vulnerability they experience on the backstage of activism, which translates into conscious efforts to manage emotions, whether through collective or individual techniques. Empirically, this article contributes to Southeast Asian LGBTQ activism scholarship, advancing the discussion on what the activist role entails beyond public mobilisations and how activists cope with this multifaceted nature of activism. Theoretically, this study contributes to the sociology of emotion, showing how the collectivist culture offers fertile ground to observe the relationality of emotions, thereby extending Hochschild’s theorisation of emotion work.

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  • 1 Uppsala University, , Sweden

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