Abstract: Drawing on walking interviews with 19 Fridays for Future (FFF) activists in Germany, this study focuses on Greta Thunberg by researching strikers’ perception, identification, and online networking practices with the movement’s central figure. With respect to protest mobilization and collective identity formation, this study finds that participants primarily identify with Thunberg via her class standing. While male activists highlight Thunberg’s gender as a mobilizing factor, female and non-binary activists often dismiss it, thereby distancing themselves from FFF’s feminized public image. Participants believe that Thunberg’s disability gives her an “edge” to generate media attention for FFF, calling it an asset to the cause. Although all participants engage with Thunberg via social media, many downplay her leadership role in the movement. Similarly, local organizers actively use Thunberg’s posts to build up their own online networks while routinely emphasizing FFF’s leaderlessness. The findings thus nuance assumptions about identity-based mobilization, explore the construction of networked leadership, and chart digital organizing practices in a transnational youth climate movement.
Keywords: climate activism; Fridays for Future; Greta Thunberg; identity formation; intersectionality; networked leadership; protest mobilization; social movements