Alex Hanna has a recent post over at Bad Hessian about the potential value of a newly released dataset, GDELT, for the study of social movements. GDELT stands for Global Data on Events, Location and Tone, and is a news-based events data base covering the globe for the years 1979-2012. It is in its beta release, and will eventually be updated regularly on a near real time basis. One of many cool things about today’s research environment is that though GDELT has been online for less than two months, one can already find R and python code to assist one’s exploration of it (e.g., see here, here, and here). Continue reading
Tag Archives: Social Movements Research
In an earlier post, I wrote about the importance of the intersection of cultural and institutional factors in understanding the cross-national politics of marriage equality. One important part of this context is attitudinal shifts regarding gay marriage. According to a PEW survey, American public opinion has moved markedly in support of gay marriage in the four years since California’s Proposition 8. Recent U.S. Supreme Court hearings have brought out demonstrators on both sides of the debate. On a CNN international report (March 27, 2013), one opponent of gay marriage proclaimed that this is an issue for the people, not the court. According to Jeff Toobin of CNN, conservative justices have recognized the “growing popularity” of gay marriage and have argued in favor of using the democratic process (especially at the state level) rather than the non-elected judiciary. Continue reading →
Around the world a host of grassroots actors and organizations have been mobilizing to combat the degeneration, decline and potential ‘death’ of minority languages. Minority language movements are rarely just about ‘saving’ languages per se. Rather, these movements are often engaged in organized and enduring efforts to re-define the practice of citizenship, promote alternative notions of nationhood and re-purpose public policies and institutions. While most of these movements face extraordinary challenges and dilemmas, many have also realized important social and political gains. Social movement scholars have much to contribute to the academic as well as political discussion on minority language issues yet their voices are acutely silent on linguistic issues. Social movement scholarship also has much to gain by taking a closer look at minority language movements. Over the next few months I will be writing about minority language movements for Mobilizing Ideas. I start with a brief and general overview of the topic so as to invite students, researchers and activists alike to consider this most compelling but yet often over-looked form of mobilization. Continue reading →
It has long been established that social movement organizations (SMOs) adopt many business-like practices in the pursuit of social change. These practices typically include acquiring labor, capital, and talent through a competitive process. Social movement organizations will then appropriate those resources toward acquiring the attention of the public and political officials. In order to sustain such attention, professional SMOs must engage with the public through both presenting self-initiated messages and availing themselves for further messages if prompted. After a publicized demonstration concludes, a professional SMO should prepare to receive–and answer–follow-up telephone calls.
In order to acquire the commerce of potential customers and possibly divert such commerce from competitors, local businesses will traditionally provide their contact information and location in community directories. Likewise, in order to acquire the attention of the public and possibly divert such attention from competitors, SMOs may provide their contact information and location in community directories. With the global rise of communication infrastructure, such directories have grown exponentially in scale and made great strides in centralizing previously fragmented information. One’s inclusion in these vast directories is typically cheap, if not free, and extremely convenient for organizations and the broader public alike. Continue reading →
Mobilization, the leading scholarly journal in social movement studies, plans a special issue on innovative research in contentious politics to be published in December 2013 (Volume 18, Number 4). Submission deadline is January 11, 2013.
Mobilization is seeking high-quality, original research articles from any discipline which highlight either of the following:
- New methods of data collection: Advances in technology have allowed researchers unparalleled access to social movements. For contemporary movements, we can document their activities in incredible detail as they are unfolding. Additionally, the growth in the digitization of archives means that we can also know more about historical challenges than we could even a decade ago. We seek research that takes advantage of these new sources of data and means of collecting it, or that looks at old sources of data in a new way. We encourage submissions employing both qualitative and quantitative data.
- New methods of analysis: From social network analysis to advances in comparative analysis and mixed methods, social scientists are employing a new repertoire of analytic strategies. We encourage submissions that take advantage of these techniques to explore questions related to contentious politics. Continue reading →
The increasing development of transnational ties and coalitions among social movement activists and organizations through the decades reveals how multilingualism can act as a vital and empowering resource for promoting sociopolitical change. Yet, the global hegemony of English also reveals how underlying power dynamics present dilemmas for progressive movements founded upon inclusive principles of multiculturalism and participatory democracy. Social movement scholarship also reflects this linguistic power dynamic and scholars should take heed. By providing more opportunities and venues for non-English speakers to participate in shaping academic debates and discussions new insights and theoretical perspectives are more likely to develop.
The ability of grassroots activists to speak multiple languages helps them to better reach out across borders, establish new allies, expand social networks and bolster visibility through mass media outlets. When Zapatista rebels launched their insurrection from the heart of Mayan territory in 1994, the capacity of leaders to integrate indigenous languages with Spanish and English allowed the movement to establish a broad base of support characterized by both transnational breadth and deep local roots. Continue reading →
LEADING TEAMS (or, How Social Movement Leaders Are Like Flight Attendants, Semiconductor Manufacturers, and Second Violinists)
It is increasingly common for social movement scholars to bemoan the lack of theory and research on leadership in social movements. There’s a good reason for this: there’s not enough out there. We know a bit about who becomes a movement leader. We know a bit about how they become leaders. We know a bit about what the leadership experience does to leaders over time. And we know a bit about what leaders (sometimes) (probably) do. There’s clearly a lot of ground left to cover.
One way to advance our understanding is to shift from thinking about leadership as something individuals do to thinking about leadership as the outputs from leadership teams (recent works by Marshall Ganz, Francesca Polletta, and others have started pushing us in such directions). Making this conceptual shift refocuses our attention away from the particulars of what certain leaders have done and toward the organizational and interactional contexts within which they operated. The most brilliant tactical innovation or issue frame is highly context dependent. But the settings from which brilliant ideas spring forth may not be. In effect, to understand movement leadership, we might be better off asking why some leadership teams work better than others. Continue reading →
In this morning’s New York Times, distinguished
philosopher Gary Gutting raises a commonly discussed set of questions about social science research and theory and the ability to make accurate predictions. As is common in such arguments, physics is held up as the best “real” science because it gives us theories with clear predictions that always work. Experimental evidence has allowed for the clear elaboration of (what appear to be) invariant physical laws, at least in areas like classical mechanics (e.g. we can predict precisely where the moon will be 200 years, 3 days, and 7 hours from now). The social sciences are then held in contrast to this. As the argument goes, the social world is amazingly complex, making it hard to generate predictions, and it is often too difficult or too immoral to do controlled experiments on people, so social scientists could never test those predictions anyway. Gutting’s conclusion: “we need to develop a much better sense of the severely limited reliability of social scientific results.” And the implication he draws from this conclusion? Continue reading →
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will be holding a major summit in Chicago later this month. Where NATO goes, protest follows, and federal and city officials are apparently preparing for it.
But they aren’t the only ones. Social movement scholars are gearing up as well. Will H. Moore (Professor of Political Science at Florida State) and Christian Davenport (Professor of Peace Studies, Political Science, and Sociology at Notre Dame) are putting together a neat study of what the NATO summit protests and policing will look like. And they really mean what all of the protest and policing will look like–not just the big signs or lines of riot police or burning trash cans that typically end up on the evening news and the covers of newspapers. The basic plan is to train a set of observers who will watch a delimited area and record what they see at regular intervals. This will give them a fuller picture of what really goes on during the protests, apart from just the flashiest stuff that we’ll all see on the news. Here’s a screenshot from a Prezi presentation they’ve put together illustrating the approach:
Of course, executing a research plan like this takes a lot of trained observers–and they’re in the process of recruiting some now. If you are an undergraduate student interested in social movements and who might be available to be in Chicago for the summit, check out the full presentation (don’t worry; it’s short); the contact information for Professors Moore and Davenport is at the end. If you know undergraduates who might be interested and available, spread the word! (Here’s a Tiny URL good for sharing: http://tinyurl.com/protpol).
Charles (Chuck) Tilly, a prominent and much-loved social movements scholar, died four years ago last Sunday. In 2005, Prospect Magazine called Tilly “America’s most prolific and interesting sociologist.”
Tilly’s work combines insights from sociology, history and political science in the exploration of a wide variety of topics, including contentious politics, repression, violence, and identity.
The Social Science Research Council has a special section of its website dedicated to honoring Tilly’s life and work, and the site has been recently updated in observance of the anniversary of his death. Students might especially appreciate browsing some of Tilly’s famous annotated bibliographies, which span areas from research design to globalization. Other features of the site include a list of selected publications (which nonetheless fills 27 pages!), links to review essays of Tilly’s life and work, and tributes and remembrances from other scholars. Visitors can also make a contribution to the Charles and Louise Tilly Fund for Social Science History.