Q&A and Reading with Michael T. Heaney

On Wednesday, March 4th, at 7pm Michael T. Heaney and co-author Fabio Rojas will launch Party in the Street: The Antiwar Movement and the Democratic Party after 9/11.  Party in the Street explores the interaction between political parties and social movements in the United States. Examining the collapse of the post-9/11 antiwar movement against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this book focuses on activism and protest in the United States. It argues that the electoral success of the Democratic Party and President Barack Obama, as well as antipathy toward President George W. Bush, played a greater role in this collapse than did changes in foreign policy. It shows that how people identify with social movements and political parties matters a great deal, and it considers the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street as comparison cases.

We would like to thank Michael T. Heaney for taking the time to answer a few questions for the blog and hope you will join both authors for the event this coming week!

How did you come to write Party in the Street?

I became interested in the antiwar movement during the Fall of 2002 when Bush Administration made clear its designs for war in Iraq.  I participated in several protests in Washington, DC, where I was living at the time.  These events fascinated me.  Many different groups were represented there: labor unions, anarchists, women’s organizations, Democrats, Libertarians, environmentalists, and innumerable others.  I wanted to know what motivated the members of these groups and how that would change over time. 

When the Republican National Convention came to New York City in August 2004, I saw an opportunity to begin a formal study of the antiwar movement. I was living nearby in New Haven, Connecticut at the time.  My friend Fabio Rojas – whom I knew from graduate school at the University of Chicago – and I decided to work together in conducting a survey of the people at the protests.  

The protests outside the 2004 Republican National Convention inspired Fabio and I to develop the concept of “the party in the street”.  We saw the protests as a way that a political party and a social movement confronted one another.   We wanted to know more about how peoples’ partisan attachments and identities affected their involvement in social movements.  Thus, we began what would become a 10-year-long study of the antiwar movement after 9/11.

What are you currently reading?

Currently, I am reading Democracy’s Fourth Wave: Digital Media and the Arab Spring, by Philip N. Howard and Muzammil M. Hussain (published by Oxford University Press in 2013).  It is a study of how online infrastructure enabled people to form social networks that were real, meaningful, and powerful in opposing authoritarian governments in North Africa and the Middle East.

Do you have a personal favorite book of all time? If so, can you share it and tell us why?

My favorite book of nonfiction is Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, by Michel Foucault.  It helped me to understand the diffusion and ubiquity of power in society.  I’ve never quite looked at the world in the same way after reaching Foucault.

My favorite book of fiction is Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keys.  I read it in 8th grade and then again during college.  I loved it both times, though for different reasons.  As an 8th-grader, I was touched by the sensitive relationship between a man and a mouse.  As a college student, I was struck by Keys’ critique of science and the pursuit of knowledge.

Is there anything you are particularly looking forward to the publication of?

In nonfiction, I am looking forward to the publication of Networks in Contention: The Divisive Politics of Climate Change, by my friend Jennifer Hadden (published by Cambridge University Press in 2015).  It is the first comprehensive analysis of how social networks supported the rise of the international movement to halt climate change.

In fiction, I am look forward to the publication of Small Mercies: A Novel, by my cousin Eddie Joyce (published by Viking Adult in March 2015).  Set in Staten Island, New York in the aftermath of 9/11, this novel explores the implications of that tragedy through the eyes of characters who were directly and indirectly affected by it.

What’s next? Any upcoming book projects in the works that you can tell us about?

Partisan polarization is a force that is tearing America apart and making it nearly impossible for elected politicians to get anything constructive done in Washington, DC.   My next book project looks at political organizations that are able to overcome the obstacles of polarization by collaborating in coalitions.  The project is very tentatively titled Working Together in Washington.  It will be co-authored work with Jesse Crosson, who is currently working on his Ph.D. in political science at the University of Michigan.