Tamar Carroll researches the questions of what motivates community activists to do what they do…


The media content our academically-minded transcription know-it-alls listen to and transcribe on a daily basis is truly second to noneOK, maybe we’re a little biased about our team and our clients’ media contentso we’re always bursting with enthusiasm for these projects.  As per our previous post on confidentiality, we can’t always talk about the various subjects we’re transcribing, so we’re super-excited for those times when we are permitted to sing a project’s praises from the second floor of our downtown Boston office. (This may also explain those times when the pigeons fly rapidly away form the director’s window — the bottom window on the right if you were wondering…)

But I digress…

Today we are thrilled to talk about Tamar Carroll of Rochester Institute of Technology and her forthcoming book,  We corresponded with Tamar via email, and she was kind enough to take some time to answer our questions and talk in detail about these interviews and what she hopes to learn and understand from them.

ATC: Tamar, tell us about these interviews you’re conducting in more detail.

CARROLL: The interviews I have done with more than 40 activists are research for my book, Mobilizing New York: Community Activism from the War on Poverty through the AIDS Epidemic, which is under contract for publication with the University of North Carolina Press in 2015. The book begins with Mobilization For Youth (MFY), a demonstration project for the War on Poverty located in the Lower East Side, and charts the transformation of this social welfare agency by the civil rights movement and the participation of African American and Puerto Rican mothers. I then follow a young social worker and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) activist, Jan Peterson, from MFY to Williamsburg/Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where she founded in 1975 the National Congress of Neighborhood Women, a working-class feminist organization that established a college and jobs program as well as the first battered women’s shelter in New York City. Finally, I examine the collaboration between gay men and feminists in the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) and Women’s Health Action Mobilization (WHAM!) in the late 1980s and early 1990s,when their spectacular street theater and dramatic poster art reshaped the social geography of the city, leading to the creation of a supportive queer community as well as important changes in public policy on AIDS and medical research more broadly.

Mobilizing New York examines how residents have enacted participatory democracy, using self-education, consciousness-raising, public protest and civil disobedience to make American citizenship more inclusive. I also investigate the conditions that foster collaboration across lines of race, class, gender and sexuality, as well as the challenges posed by differences of identity.

ATC: What do you hope to learn from these interviews?

CARROLL: The interviews help me understand what motivates individuals to become activists and how they think about strategies, tactics, and movement goals. I also learn how they assess the triumphs and failures of the movements they have taken part in, and perhaps most significantly, how taking part in activism shaped their own lives.

ATC: Where and how can these interviews be accessed if made public?

CARROLL: I have donated my interviews with WHAM! and ACT UP members to the Tamiment Library at NYU, where the WHAM! papers are located, and my interviews with MFY and NCNW members to the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College, where the papers of the NCNW and of Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward (Cloward founded MFY and they met there when she worked there) are. Both the audio files and transcripts are available for many of my interviews.

Stay tuned for the published book in 2015, and in the meanwhile ATC will continue to transcribe and blog about other fascinating projects each month (as we’re allowed by our clients).

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