The University of Arizona

Constructing environmentalist identities through green neoliberal identity work

Autumn Thoyre

Abstract


To advance understandings of how neoliberal ideologies are linked to peoples' everyday environmentalist practices, this article examines processes through which green neoliberal subjects are made. Bringing together critical perspectives on green neoliberalism and symbolic interactionist perspectives on identities, I develop the concept of green neoliberal identity work, a mechanism through which neoliberal environmentalist subjects are produced. I use environmentalists' promotions and uses of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) as a case study, and employ mixed qualitative methods and grounded theory analysis. Data were collected in North Carolina through interviews, participant observation, and texts. The data reveal four generic patterns of green neoliberal identity work: celebrations and renunciations of particular technologies, inclusive-talk, performing moral math, and technological progress-talk. These patterns show that framing green neoliberal subject formation through the lens of identity work illuminates how these subjects form themselves through micro-level social processes, and opens up different ways of thinking about resistance.

Keywords: environmentalism, neoliberalism, identity work, subjectivities, identities


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2458/v22i1.21082