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'Waving the banana' at capitalism: Political theater and social movement strategy among New York's 'freegan' dumpster divers

Barnard, A. V.

This article presents an ethnographic study of 'freegans', individuals who use behaviors like dumpster diving for discarded food and voluntary unemployment to protest against environmental degradation and capitalism. While freegans often present their ideology as a totalizing lifestyle which impacts all aspects of their lives, in practice, freegans emphasize what would seem to be the most repellant aspect of their movement: eating wasted food. New Social Movement (NSM) theory would suggest that behaviors like dumpster diving are intended to assert difference and an alternative identity, rather than make more traditional social movement claims. Through the lens of social dramaturgy, I engage with New Social Movement theory by arguing that unconventional tactics like dumpster diving can also have strategic components, serving to project a favorable image of movement organizations, recruit new participants, and achieve a positive portrayal in the mainstream media.

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