Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type

Restricted Thesis

Terms of Use

© 2018 Meghan Kelly. All rights reserved. Access to this work is restricted to users within the Swarthmore College network and may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. Sharing with users outside of the Swarthmore College network is expressly prohibited. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Educational Studies Department, Sociology & Anthropology Department

First Advisor

Lisa Smulyan

Second Advisor

Nina Johnson


Since 2006, Chilean youth have demanded free, public, good-quality education for all in the face of stark educational inequality. Contributing to literature spearheaded by Blumer (1969) on the social movement life cycle, I study the experiences of Chilean female teenage activists to ask: where in the cycle is the student movement now, and where is it heading? How is the movement's evolution mediated by the social locations of these female teenage activists? My qualitative research in Santiago suggests that the student movement still exists, and it is strengthened by the use of various tactics that align with classic social movement theory principles of framing, resource mobilization, and leveraging political opportunities (McAdam, McCarthy, & Zald, 1996; McCarthy & Zald, 1977). Simultaneously, however, its location within a patriarchal, neoliberal, classist society places it at risk of decline. This decline is driven by a combination offactors, including (I) repression, media portrayal and historical memory of dictatorship; (2) co-optation and the girls' complex positions as both beneficiaries and victims of neoliberal educational frameworks; (3) organizational failure and factionalism along identity lines exacerbated by a certain kind of rote involvement in the movement performed out of habit rather than intense energy and passion that continuously advances the movement forward; and (4) a lack of strategic planning and tactical consideration, which encompasses the routinization of strategy and the absence of unified clarity on the movement's goals beyond free, public, good-quality education. The girls' lived experiences offer insight on the triumphs and challenges youth—and girls in particular—may face as they work towards egalitarian, communal social realities, while still living in a world of savage inequalities and individualistic neoliberalism.