Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change: Volume 36


Table of contents

(16 chapters)

A somewhat common view of social movements is that they are somehow associated with the vanguard, or that they are at least leading the way to new possibilities on what are frequently considered to be cutting edge issues, that is, topics that few others are currently concerned with or informed about in meaningful ways. This has often been the case historically, and when it is, it is also one of the reasons why social movements are so exciting to study and have attracted such sustained social scientific attention. Sometimes this added scholarly attention to the movement and its issues is another salient variable in pushing forward the social and political change that the movement is aiming for. But social movements are not always on the cutting edge; indeed, sometimes they aren’t close to it. Social movements frequently only mirror concerns, processes, or patterns that are swirling about or even dominating the society of which the movement is a part. In this sense social movements are reflectors and followers just as much as they may be leaders. Yet even this view is too simplistic since it is also true that social movements may lag behind – only adopting practices and processes long after they are already well established in other sectors of the society.

Over the last several decades, the social movement sector in the United States has been professionalizing, creating a large number of highly professionalized, formal social movement organizations. And yet, over the last decade, digital technologies have been used to undermine long-settled distinctions between producers and consumers in a number of areas of social and economic life as relative amateurs engage in production (e.g., citizen journalism). Drawing an analogy between protest organizers and producers on the one hand, and protest participants and consumers on the other hand, it would seem possible that digital technologies could be used to up-end brightline distinctions between organizers and participants in the protest sector as well. I outline two different ways these prosumptive forces could shape protest and then use a five year panel dataset on websites across 20 different social movement areas to understand the net effect of prosumptive versus professionalizing trends. Findings suggest that while there has been some adoption of disruptive digital technologies by protest-related websites, the majority of sites still limit and circumscribe participant participation to pre-choreographed actions. Findings shed important light on the continuing social organization of protest in the dawning of the digital age.

What is the relationship between a social movement and the media coverage it receives? Using data on the Tea Party and supplementing it with a broad dataset of coverage in nearly 200 state and local newspapers over an 18-month period, I address key questions on the recursive relationship between media coverage and mobilization. Results provide support for the mobilizing influence of the media. Instead of following protest activity as post-facto news, coverage tended to precede mobilization and was its most important predictor. Second, the conservative media occupied a distinct and indirect position in impacting mobilization. Though not direct predictors of mobilization, conservative media coverage was a strong predictor of subsequent coverage in the broader media. Further, this influence was asymmetrical, with the general media having no impact on conservative media. Finally, results suggest that the conservative frame of “liberal media bias” enabled a unique mobilizing effect where negative coverage in the broader media increased mobilization. These findings shed light on the dynamic relationship between movements, protests, and the media, and that of conservative movements in particular.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, disability rights found a place on the U.S. policy agenda. However, it did not do so because social movement groups pressured political elites or because politicians were responding to changes in public preferences. Drawing from recent work in neo-institutionalism and social movements, namely the theory of strategic action fields, I posit that exogenous shocks in the 1960s caused a disability policy monopoly to collapse giving way to a new policy community. Using original longitudinal data on congressional committees, hearings, bills, and laws, as well as data from the Policy Agendas Project, I demonstrate the ways in which entrepreneurs pursued a new policy image of rights within a context of increasing committee involvement, issue complexity, and space on the policy agenda, and the consequences this had on policy.

This chapter bridges cultural and political approaches to determine why elite support for movement claims may be inconsistent across the policy process. I analyze this question empirically through 16 in-depth interviews with government officials in two regions of Peru: Arequipa and Cusco. Regional officials appraised feminist advocacy in two opposing ways. First, they valued feminist advocates’ contributions to policy processes, which enabled them to advance reproductive rights and gender equity initiatives. They also perceived women as a group deserving of these initiatives and framed gender policies in terms of rights and equality. Second, they were critical of feminist advocates’ weaknesses in mobilizing support, which hindered the officials’ own ability to advance reproductive rights and gender equity initiatives. Furthermore, regional officials understood reproductive rights and gender equality to be thwarted by the State’s economic instrumentalism and by Catholic Church’s ultra-conservatism. This research shows how a cultural approach to policy elites’ support for movement claims goes beyond their individual attitudes and calculations to capture their perceptions, frames, and understandings tied to the broader cultural context. This wider conceptualization in turn helps clarify inconsistencies in policy elites’ support for movement claims across the policy process.

Scholars studying postwar settings are often highly critical of the work of NGOs in peacebuilding. In this chapter, I argue that many of the limitations of the NGO model are the result of the structure of funding. Using ethnographic and archival data from donors and NGOs engaging in peacebuilding in Croatia, this chapter examines the incentives build into the dominant donor–NGO model of funding. I find that the incentives for both donors and NGOs built into funding for peacebuilding lead to dysfunctional behavior by both donors and NGOs, and ultimately to ineffective and sometimes counterproductive peacebuilding projects. I find that donors actively shape the agenda of NGOs and push NGOs to see projects as the unit of peacebuilding. Donor funding is novelty seeking, rewarding NGOs for coming up with new project ideas and working in new locations. It also favors quantifiable events and activities for the purposes of reporting. In practice, these systematic preferences lead to the abandonment of successful projects, difficulty in securing long-term funding for work in troubled communities, and the favoring of countable events over development of the interpersonal relationships that are at the heart of successful peacebuilding.

This article presents the results of a 15-year longitudinal study of the major educational peacebuilding initiatives in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, during times of relative peace and of acute violence (1993–2008). Using longitudinal field research data and surveys, it examines how peace initiatives, that work across conflict lines, adapt to hostile and unfavorable environments. Additionally, it investigates the criteria that allows some peacebuilding initiatives to survive and persist, when the large majority do not. Building on the organizational and social movement studies literature, I contend that organizations need to successfully attend to a variety of challenges such as maintaining resources, maintaining legitimacy, managing internal conflict, and maintaining commitment to have a significant chance for survival. Moreover, I argue that for organizations committed to working across difference and inequality in unfavorable and hostile conflict environments, it is critical for organizational effectiveness and survival to pay heed to the quality of the cross-conflict relationships, as well as, to matters of equality.

Occupy was a leaderless, resistance movement that started as Occupy Wall Street in New York City on September 17, 2011 but soon spread around the world, becoming a truly global movement. This chapter provides a detailed description and analysis of the processes of learning consensus decision-making in Occupy Dame Street in Dublin, Ireland.The analysis draws on more than five months of “militant ethnographic” and participatory action research within the Occupy movement. The chapter points to the ways in which uncertainty impacted on the processes of learning in Occupy and how it intersected with responsibility and commitment of the participants.

Since the first edition of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 2001, similar initiatives have flourished at the local scales. In the existing literature, local social forums are generally considered to be a natural replication of the world social forums. Beyond the label “social forums,” what do the practices of local social forums specifically entail and what is the meaning of these practices for local activists?I propose a comparison of eight cases situated in two distinct societies (Quebec and France). I use a multi-approach methodology, combining direct observation, focus groups, interviews, and documentary analysis.I show that despite strong national differences, a highly decentralized process, and the strong autonomy of local actors, local social forums share structural characteristics, and the expression “social forum” is associated with ways of doing things that limit the variety of local social forum initiatives: organizers share a common intentionality; the mode of operation of local social forum process and event belong to the same political culture and translate into the same practices; and the outputs of these gatherings are similar in terms of the building of ties. Overall, local social forums are used as tactical and cultural collective action repertoires by actors, redefining the boundaries of social resistance and its practices.

This chapter integrates both structural and symbolic interactionist perspectives used in the study of collective behavior to provide a thorough examination of the campus culture and student–police interactions that precipitated a riot near James Madison University (JMU). While the analysis is anchored by Smelser’s (1971 [1962]) “value-added” model, it also accounts for cultural conditions common on college campuses. Importantly, the dynamics associated with this case may be similar to other riots – at sporting events, at religious processionals, etc. – occurring when authorities disrupt gatherings that have strong cultural resonance among participants. In these cases, attempts at disruption may be seen as an assault on norms strongly associated with a group’s identity. The study also used a unique data source – 39 YouTube videos posted of the riot event – that made it possible to capture the interactive and emergent quality of rioting behavior in real time from multiple vantage points.

Tarun Banerjee is a Ph.D. candidate of sociology at State University of New York at Stony Brook. His research is in the areas of social movements, organizations, and class analysis. His dissertation is on protests against large corporations in the United States, and examines the impact of social networks between these corporations in their responses to social movement demands.

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Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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