Nonviolent Conflict and Civil Resistance: Volume 34


Table of contents

(16 chapters)

There was a time – not so very long ago – when if a social movements researcher wished to learn what the scholarly community knew about the complicated social and political dynamics of nonviolent action, that researcher would find many scholarly works by Gene Sharp, and not very much else. Thankfully, in the past two decades that reality has changed dramatically. Not only has the world been treated of late to a series of high-profile cases of nonviolent resistance, but the scholarly study of nonviolent action has blossomed as well. Equally notable is the nascent and long-overdue cross-fertilization now occurring between social movement scholarship and nonviolent studies.

The term “nonviolence” is often misconstrued and misunderstood (Schock, 2003). Some people associate it with passivity, neutrality, or the total avoidance of conflict. Others assume it is a “bourgeois” tactic that entails nothing more than negotiation, compromise, and gentle calls for change. Some believe that nonviolence is only for total pacifists – that is, those who, for religious or moral reasons, refuse to use any form of violence under any circumstances. Another misconception is that nonviolent methods can only be used in democracies, where the state is reluctant to crack down violently on civilian resisters. And many think that nonviolent methods are inherently slow – requiring long periods of time to yield results – and are generally less effective than violence methods.

A growing body of research on nonviolent movements has focused upon backfire or the paradox of repression, whereby repression increases support for these movements and the likelihood of their achieving their goals. The relationship between reforms and nonviolent movements, however, has received less attention. The existence of the paradox of repression suggests the inverse possibility of the paradox of reform, whereby reforms drain support away from nonviolent movements or even contribute to greater support for violent forms of contention. An exploratory, triangulated analysis of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland establishes an instance of the paradox. Within the civil rights movement, the announcement of reforms contributed to the exiting of moderates and the growing influence of those less committed to nonviolent forms of contention. Dominant group backlash resulted in vigilante attacks on both the movement and minority areas, intensified repression, and stalling on promised reforms. In response to these changed conditions, many in the minority group came to see armed rebellion as a more viable form of struggle for social justice than nonviolent protest. The case underscores the need to carefully consider the mediating role of reforms in the relationship between repression and nonviolent mobilization as well as to recognize multiple internal and external obstacles that promised yet slowly implemented reforms can present to movements pursuing social change through nonviolence.

A spate of nonviolent youth movements has recently demanded political change in the postcommunist region. Though these challenger organizations shared similar characteristics, some of them were more successful than others in mobilizing citizens against nondemocratic regimes. This chapter argues that analysis of tactical interactions between social movements and incumbent governments provides a partial explanation for cross-country variations in youth mobilization. The empirical analysis focuses on youth movements in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Serbia, and Ukraine. The study traces how movement strategies and state countermoves affected the level of youth mobilization. This research contributes to social movement literature by analyzing tactical interactions in hybrid regimes, falling somewhere between democracy and dictatorship, and adds to civil resistance scholarship by comparing cases of successful and failed mobilization.

This paper examines the divergent reactions of the two most prominent Turkish-Islamic movements to a crisis in the Parliament that centered on an elected Deputy's right to wear the headscarf. After the crisis, the National Outlook movement protested, while the Gülen movement became more conciliatory. Drawing on the Multi-Institutional Politics model, we argue that conflicting views on the nature of domination explain the disparate forms of collective action taken by the two movements. We introduce the concept “strategic nonconfrontation” as a type of nonviolent strategy to help understand the Gülen's movement's actions. We expand the nonviolent civil resistance literature by arguing that strategic nonconfrontation as a form of nonviolent resistance only becomes visible when we move beyond an exclusive focus on state power to understand the ways in which multiple systems of authority and power are constituted in society and perceived by activists. We analyze the discourse in newspapers produced by the movements in order to examine how each movement understood and defined the target of action and how that influenced their subsequent strategies.

As recent events in the Middle East and North Africa suggest, nonviolent revolutionary movements may represent an oppressed population's most promising path to ridding itself of an authoritarian regime. But as the diverging experiences of Tunisia and Egypt on the one hand, and Libya, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen on the other suggest, nonviolent victory is never a foregone conclusion. This chapter seeks to contribute to our understanding of nonviolent revolutionary success through an analysis of one of the world's first nonviolent revolutions, that of Iran in 1977–1979. Based on historical evidence, I argue that friendly international relations between the United States and Iran is a key factor in explaining both the revolutionaries’ preference for nonviolent tactics and the government's inability to repress the movement. Jimmy Carter's human rights framework served as an important incentive for revolutionaries to remain nonviolent while ensuring that state repression of unarmed protesters would come at a political price high enough to discourage the government from resorting to overwhelming violence.

We examine the rational utility and social–psychological approaches to develop fresh insights into nonviolent civil resistance. Rational utility models provide a useful, even essential, starting point for understanding what movement organizers must do if they are to overcome their movements’ collective action problems. However, the model's spare definition of agency excludes an investigation of regime legitimacy, how it is constructed and the role it plays in regime continuity. Employing a social psychological approach, we introduce the concept of “ideational assault” in which movement organizers challenge the ideas that justify voluntary civic cooperation with the ruling order. Ideational assault seeks “rhetorical coercion” in which the regime is stripped of credible arguments in its own defense and must increasingly rule by sanctions alone. Ideational assaults employ frames that delegitimize the prevailing order and mobilize people to act against it. By examining several frame forms, including, calls to action, symbolic jiu-jitsu, humor, and moral appeal, we cast new light on the ideational battle that rages alongside the fight for control of the streets. We conclude by arguing that students of nonviolent civil resistance should consult both the rational and social–psychological approaches in their analysis.

While it is generally well known that nonviolent collective action was widely deployed in the US southern civil rights movement, there is still much that we do not know about how that came to be. Drawing on primary data that consist of detailed semistructured interviews with members of the Nashville nonviolent movement during the late 1950s and 1960s, we contribute unique insights about how the nonviolent repertoire was diffused into one movement current that became integral to moving the wider southern movement. Innovating with the concept of serially linked movement schools – locations where the deeply intense work took place, the didactic and dialogical labor of analyzing, experimenting, creatively translating, and resocializing human agents in preparation for dangerous performance – we follow the biographical paths of carriers of the nonviolent Gandhian repertoire as it was learned, debated, transformed, and carried from India to the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and Howard University to Nashville (TN) and then into multiple movement campaigns across the South. Members of the Nashville movement core cadre – products of the Nashville movement workshop schools – were especially important because they served as bridging leaders by serially linking schools and collective action campaigns. In this way, they played critical roles in bridging structural holes (places where the movement had yet to be successfully established) and were central to diffusing the movement throughout the South. Our theoretical and empirical approach contributes to the development of the dialogical perspective on movement diffusion generally and to knowledge about how the nonviolent repertoire became integral to the US civil rights movement in particular.

The frequent occurrence of stonethrowing by Palestinian boys presents a dilemma pulling activists in disparate directions, provoking contested interpretations of this tactic and forcing international human rights workers (HRWers) to weigh their relative commitments to nonviolence, noninterference, and solidarity with Palestinians. In tactical discussions, local activists and HRWers often frame stonethrowing by referencing historical nonviolent templates, sometimes to legitimize “limited violence” and sometimes to condemn it. Building from fieldwork and interviews, I argue that memory templates serve as master frames that aid in interpreting protest actions, perhaps especially in settings where heterogeneous teams of international activists seek common frames of reference as they negotiate a developing praxis in a new context. Nevertheless, these templates were sometimes constructed through highly selective readings of the multilayered discourse and complex biographies of such figures as Gandhi and King. While the “hermeneutic circle” anticipates such selective readings, I argue that even the multivocal, sometimes contradictory, Gandhi and King texts can be remembered and applied in patterns that appear co-optive to the opposing camps of principled and pragmatic nonviolent adherents. Grounded in HRWer deliberations in the field, the core theoretical contribution of this paper maps out discursive strategies activists employ as they leverage memory templates in tactical debates.

Where international nonviolence organizations have increasingly become key players in both the development and evaluation of effective nonviolent movements, little scholarly attention has been given to their role in transnational mobilization. In this chapter, I present new data on a growing population of nonviolent protest INGOs, a transnational nonviolence network, working to globally spread tactical knowledge and resources. To examine determinants of how this population has grown as a whole, I employ negative binomial regression analysis to weigh the effect of nonviolent protest, social movements, and world society theories on nonviolent INGO expansion. I then examine how this network and its ties to different world regions have changed over the latter half of the twentieth century. I find it has been most significantly shaped by the expansion of global political and civil society networks, global human rights work, and a global discourse about nonviolence. The purpose here is to expand knowledge of the global institutional foundations of transnational protest resources, opportunities, and discourse among nonviolent movements.

Mary Bernstein is Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut. She has published numerous articles in the fields of social movements, identity, sexualities, gender, and law and is coeditor of three books. Recent articles include “What Are You? Explaining Identity as a Goal of the Multiracial Hapa Movement,” “Identity Politics,” and “Culture, Power, and Institutions: A Multi-Institutional Politics Approach to Social Movements” (coauthored with Elizabeth Armstrong) which won the Outstanding Article Award from the American Sociological Association Section on Collective Behavior and Social Movements (2009).

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Book series
Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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