Jolly, “Women’s Peace Movement”

Jolly looks to the protest campaign of the Greenham women who focused their movement on building community through a “web” or network facilitated by various epistolary correspondence: personal letters, chain letters, newsletters/bulletins, banners, postcards, shawls, scarves, t-shirts, etc.

The Greenham women were protesters—part of the British women’s peace movement—in the early 1980’s who protested the nuclear campaign of the UK by inhabiting the Greenham Commons, a military base. While there were women who literally inhabited this space, these women also developed an “extended” community that reached “those who were only visitors or never even got to the camp” by developing a bond through letter writing. “In this sense, we can understand campaign letters as forms of life writing with often intensely personal investment” (196). The key metaphor to understand this community of women (and men) is the web: “letters were the means of political lobbying and of identification and resistance. As such, they also enabled the campaign’s ideology of decentered action, in which local and dispersed actions, or even simply personal identification, were as valued as those taking place in the more public eye at the military base” (196).

Notably, in Jolly’s interviews with Greenham women, not many campaigners remembered writing letters despite letter writing being “inextricable from the development of the campaign and indeed form what distinguished it from the conventional peace movement” (199). As such, letter writing became a space for encounters and interaction among the Greenham women: the development of the web “emblematized an aspiration to unify ends and means. It was a declaration of values that even women who had never met, or who could never come to Greenham, could share” (200). Jolly describes the development of community—or sense of community—as having virtual and material mediation. Jolly further emphasizes that this method of organization, the web, facilitated an imagined community, allowing passions “to transcend the physical location” and conceiving a “deep, horizontal comradeship” (200). Such “technologies of communication”  have always been crucial “ to the functioning of protests that aim explicitly to nurture ‘imaginary’ as well as literal community” (205).

The idea of an imagined bond is crucial to a sense of community: “much of what defines a community is unconscious and, in that sense, difficult to access politically” (213). Letter writing, then, takes no small part in developing this affective bond—studying them allows us to see something about identity construction and creating shared values/practices among the community of dispersed campaigners.

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