Document Type

Honors Project


Thank you to my advisor, Erika Busse-Cardenas, for guiding me through every step of this project. And to the Mahnaz Kousha fund that supported my research.


The Dakota Access Pipeline is an oil pipeline that sparked a massive uprising in the fall of 2016 due to its environmental impacts, and violation of Native treaty rights. Upwards of 10,000 people participated in the six-month-long occupation in North Dakota and there were hundreds of injuries and arrests. What sparked this tactical innovation? And what tensions arose from this strategy? In an attempt to answer these questions, I have interviewed water protectors who participated in the occupation, and analyzed interview records with movement leaders. From this research, I conclude that the limited resources available to the movement led to innovative tactics that took the form of a prefigurative political community. This created tension in the movement because prefigurative communities are intentionally designed whereas tactical innovation is emergent. There are three tensions that arose from this tension between being prefigurative and innovative: cultivating community among thousands of strangers, the complexities of welcoming everyone and anyone into the camp, and implementing a non-hierarchical leadership structure. This research expands on tactical innovation scholarship by demonstrating how resources can serve as a catalyst for innovation, and further complicates the implications of innovation.

Included in

Sociology Commons



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