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Allyship in social justice : definitions, practice, and use
Julia A. Karschney
May 10, 2017
Department or Program
This study investigates the concepts of allyship and allies in social justice. Given the diverse understandings and uses of the allyship, this thesis intends to respond to the question: how do those in social justice groups understand and use allyship within the context of their work? Through ten in-depth interviews with those that work in various social justice groups, I investigate differing meanings these individuals attach to allyship and how it is used within the context of these groups. Interviews reveal that participants focused on three particular themes: the expected behaviors of allies in social justice, misuse of allyship as a status symbol, and (dis)connections between allyship and solidarity. The first theme speaks to the functional elements and purpose of allyship in social justice, while the latter two themes provide further definitions of allyship that contest the use of the term at all. I conclude with an analysis of these various understandings and uses, and argue that limiting elements of allyship perhaps detract from the goals of social justice in the larger context of social movements. In doing so, I propose a move towards the use of other frameworks of difference, such as solidarity, to strengthen the processes and goals of social justice.