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Utah's Foremost Platform for Undergraduate Research Presentation
2022 Abstracts

Illegible Resistance: Unpacking progress narratives in research on social change

Presenter: Faith Staley
Authors: Faith Staley
Faculty Advisor: Connie Etter
Institution: Westminster College

The Salty Street Medic Collective (SSMC) formed in June 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah to provide medical care to Black Lives Matter protesters. As a member of the collective and a researcher, I used the framework of Participatory Action Research (PAR) to interview SSMC members about the group’s origins and future. My original research questions were: Which direction will the SSMC take towards becoming a long-term community health collective? How can we transform the energy of seemingly-insular movements into long-term projects? However, throughout the process, I realized that my research design relied on a progress narrative of social change. Ideals of linear progress are by-products of white supremacist capitalist culture, and serve to collapse resistance into legible models (Okun, 2021; Tuck & Yang, 2013). I draw on “life-making” as resistance (Fraser, 2016) and concepts of movements as “movements in becoming” (Huang & Delaporte, 2020) to challenge such narratives. This research builds on Social Reproduction Theory, feminist ethics of care, the work of Black, Brown, and Indigenous organizers, and interviews with the members of SSMC to claim that the potency of the SSMC lies in its refusal to be legible to white supremacist capitalist culture.