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Social Movement Participation and the “Timing” of Involvement: The Case of the Northern Ireland civil Rights Movement

Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1318-1, eISBN: 978-1-84950-418-8

ISSN: 0163-786X

Publication date: 3 July 2007


Drawing on Bert Klandermans (2004) hypothesis that instrumentality, identity, and ideology are interacting motivations, which increase the likelihood of participation in social movements, this article examines why individuals joined the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement (CRM) during the 1960s. Analyzing data gathered from semi-structured interviews, newspapers, autobiographies, secondary sources, government and movement organizations documents, the empirical analysis indicates that the individuals’ motivations in the process of involvement in social movement activities differ over time. The accounts of former participants generally suggest that instrumentality provided a stronger initial motivation during the very early stage of the CRM. With the development of the movement and changes of the political context, the choice to participate rested – for the mass of individuals who decided to mobilize later in consequence of a “transformative event” – more on identity and ideology. The research underscores the importance of the “timing” of involvement in order to better grasp the causal justification of movement participation over time. Focusing on a deeply divided society, such as Northern Ireland, this research also broadens the comparative range of case studies in the field of collective action and enhances our understanding of how repressive measures by the establishment in relation to contentious politics in deeply divided societies mobilizes further the individual in social movement activities.


Bosi, L. (2007), "Social Movement Participation and the “Timing” of Involvement: The Case of the Northern Ireland civil Rights Movement", Coy, P.G. (Ed.) Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change (Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, Vol. 27), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 37-61.



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