Between Success and Failure: Dwelling with Social Movements in the Hiatus


Haiven, Max, and Alex Khasnabish. 2013. “Between Success and Failure: Dwelling with Social Movements in the Hiatus.” Interface: A Journal for and about Social Movements 5 (2): 472–98.


This article explores the ways social movement “successes” and “failures” are conceived of and measured, particularly in relation to research that strives to act in solidarity with such movements. Reviewing some of the best examples of politically-engaged research, we contend that even these assume normative categories of “success” and “failure” with respect to both movement and research outcomes. Drawing on our work in the Radical Imagination Project, a politically- engaged social movement research project in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, we argue that social movements typically dwell not at the poles of the success/failure binary but in the “hiatus” between “not-success” and “not-failure.” We contend that a more dynamic mapping of social movement success and failure produces a richer and more robust understanding of social movements, the significance of their activity, and social change. This reconceptualization and remapping of success and failure also has important implications for the way researchers seeking to work in solidarity with social movements can productively reimagine their own measures of success and failure.