Civil Wars and Contentious Politics

In a 2007 review piece for Perspective in Politics, Sid Tarrow identified the need for studies of civil wars to consider the broader context of political contention, and indeed social movements. We have asked our contributors to consider this intersection of topics. While civil wars may be a special case of political conflict, players often have a multitude of relations or connections to non-violent movements and groups. One primary example of this is the civil war in Syria, and the emergence of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Mobilizing Ideas has asked contributors to consider the gap between studies on civil wars and terrorism, and that of contentious politics and social movements. Focal topics include terrorism, the onset and cessation of violence, political and ethnic violence, repression, and rebellion.

Many thanks to our fantastic group of contributors.

Robert Braun, Northwestern University (essay)
Jack A. Goldstone, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (essay)
Colin J. Beck, Pomona College (essay)

Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo

Leave a comment

Filed under Civil Wars and Contentious Politics, Essay Dialogues, Uncategorized

Historical Legacies of Contention and Clandestine Resistance to Violence

By Robert Braun

Outcomes of political violence are often contingent on local collective action in ways that we rarely theorize or study empirically. Collective resistance against mass killing is a good example of this. Although rescue operations have saved lives of thousands of African Americans, Jews, Tutsis, and Armenians who were facing mass-persecution, social movement scholars have largely overlooked this highly localized form of humanitarian mobilization. This can be explained by both theoretical and practical factors. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Civil Wars and Contentious Politics, Essay Dialogues, Uncategorized

Informing Activists

Mobilizing Ideas is excited to announce the publication of a special series this month called “Informing Activists.” Coordinated by Jennifer Earl and Thomas Elliott (both at the University of Arizona), and in in partnership with the Youth Activism Project, this series includes videos from some of the top scholars in social movements, recommended readings, and other resources on topics ranging from framing to social movement consequences, all tailored to young activists, potential organizers, and/or potential protest participants. We hope you will share this series widely, especially with young people in your communities interested in working for social change.

Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Dan Myers

The Youth Activism Project, which is sponsored by the MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics, has joined with Mobilizing Ideas to produce a video series designed to translate academic research on social movements into actionable information and questions that can be of use to young activists, potential organizers, and/or potential protest participants.

The MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) is a network of ten scholars from various disciplines that have come together to understand how youth are getting involved civically and politically, including through sharing and producing civic and political content online. We are also interested in understanding the risks and opportunities that the use of digital media may play in these engagements. While the network invests in, and members conduct, basic research on these topics, YPP is also dedicated to translating relevant research findings into actionable information for young people, activists, educators, and/or policy-makers.

This video series comes out of that desire to connect young people with critical research on activism. We’ve invited some of the top scholars in the field of social movements to talk about what their research has to say about how to be effective activists. For example, David Snow discusses what advice his pioneering work in framing has for activists looking to improve their messaging. Holly McCammon discusses how her work in strategic adaptation helps guide activists in modifying their strategies to changing contexts. Our goal is that these videos can help current and future activists better plan their campaigns to achieve success.

Each page contains at least one video that we hope will help young activists make informed decisions about their engagements, a bio about the presented, and some suggested readings if someone is interested in a deeper dive into the topic area.

We hope you find these to be helpful, and welcome suggestions about new videos. You can email us at Good luck on making the change you envision!

Table of Contents

In what ways do social movements make a difference? – Thomas Elliott

How/When do movements make a political difference? – Katrin Uba

How/When do movements affect culture? – Jenn Earl

When do movements shape public opinion? – Neal Caren

How does movement participation affect people’s lives? – Marco Giugni

Who Participates in Movements and Why? – Bert Klandermans and Ziad Munson

What can be done about activist burnout? – Sharon Nepstad

How do I build identity and solidarity in a movement? – Rachel Einwohner

How much does the political environment affect my cause? – David Meyer

What are the best tactics for my cause? – Catherine Corrigall-Brown

How do I use online tools to help my cause? – Lissa Soep

What are the best targets for my cause? – Tom Maher

How do I adapt my tactics to the political environment? – Holly McCammon

When do I need an organization? – Jenn Earl

How do I work with existing organizations? – Grace Yukich

How can I build coalitions and increase diversity? – Rich Wood

What are some considerations for youth in organizations? – Sarah Gaby

How do I talk about my cause? – David Snow

What do I need to know about the media environment? – Deana Rohlinger

What are the risks of activism and can I reduce those risks? – Heidi Reynolds-Stenson

How Might These Topics Apply to a Specific Campaign? – Elizabeth Armstrong


Filed under Essay Dialogues, Informing Activists

Civil War, Terrorism, Revolution – The Puzzle of ISIS and the Challenge of Complex Events

By Jack A. Goldstone

As scientists, we look for well-bounded problems and well-defined questions; for only such can be resolved by scientific inquiry. It therefore seems obvious that in our studies of conflict, it is crucial to make distinctions between such disparate phenomena as civil wars, terrorism, and revolutions. Yet the world we live in respects no neat boundaries. Civil wars, terrorism, and revolutions flow together, whether in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, or Mali and northern Nigeria, or in Colombia and Sri Lanka. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Civil Wars and Contentious Politics, Essay Dialogues, Uncategorized

Revolutionary Civil Wars Between the Cracks

By Colin J. Beck

That revolution can lead to civil war could be better known. We seem to have forgotten that the French Revolution of 1789 gave us the Vendée or that the Russian Civil War was a consequence of the October Revolution of 1917. More recently, the failure of the Arab Spring revolution in Syria created a civil war and the opportunity for the expansion of the Islamic State, and the successful overthrow of Yanukovych in Ukraine led to Russian intervention and insurgency in the Donbass. Revolutions are messy business. It should be no surprise that civil war can be a consequence.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Civil Wars and Contentious Politics, Essay Dialogues, Uncategorized

2016 McCarthy Award Winner!

The Center for the Study of Social Movements at the University of Notre Dame is very pleased to announce that the winner of the 2016 John D. McCarthy Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Scholarship of Social Movements and Collective Behavior is Kathleen Blee! The award not only recognizes Kathleen’s extraordinary achievements in research, but also the role that she has played in mentoring successive generations of scholars. Kathleen holds the title of Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh, and is also the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research in the Dietrich of Arts and Sciences. She has written or edited 7 books, with her most recent being Democracy in the Making: How Activist Groups Form (Oxford Press 2012), the winner of the 2013 Charles Tilly Award for the Best Book from the Collective Behavior and Social Movements Section of the American Sociological Association. She has also published over 90 articles and book chapters. In addition, she has won teaching awards, is actively involved in professional service, and is widely admired for her courageous and groundbreaking ethnographic work.

This year’s award ceremony will be held on May 7th on the Notre Dame campus. Kathleen will be giving a public lecture prior to the award banquet. At the banquet, several of her friends, colleagues and former students will be on hand to offer reflections on her work and influence on the field.

In conjunction with the presentation of the McCarthy Award, the Center for the Study of Social Movements will also be hosting the seventh annual Young Scholars in Social Movements Conference on May 6th. Advanced graduate students and recently minted PhD’s will be invited to present their work and receive feedback from the McCarthy Award winner and a distinguished panel of senior scholars in the field. A call for nominations for the Young Scholars Conference will be issued in a separate announcement.

We hope that many of you will mark your calendars and plan to join us for these events. Please be on the lookout for more information in the coming days and weeks—including instructions on how to apply for the Young Scholars Conference. We will distribute the news on the CBSM listserv and also post the news on our Center’s website

Rory McVeigh

Director, Center for the Study of Social Movements
Professor of Sociology
University of Notre Dame

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Application Deadline for Young Scholars Conference: February 27th!

Hosted by the Center for the Study of Social Movements at the University of Notre Dame: May 6, 2016.

In conjunction with the presentation of the John D. McCarthy Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Scholarship in Social Movements, The Center for the Study of Social Movements at Notre Dame will be hosting a “Young Scholars” Conference the day before the award events. The recipient of the McCarthy Award, Kathleen Blee, will be in attendance and other senior scholars visiting Notre Dame for the award presentation will serve as discussants for the conference.

We would like to invite 12 advanced graduate students and early-career faculty to present a work solidly in-progress at the conference, enjoy an opportunity to discuss their work with some of the leading scholars in the field, and meet others in the new cohort of social movement scholars. Conference attendees will also be invited to the McCarthy Award Lecture and the award banquet on May 7. The Center will pay for meals, up to three nights lodging, and contribute $500 toward travel expenses for each of the conference attendees.

The Center will select invitees from all nominations received by February 27, 2015. Nominations will be accepted for ABD graduate students and those who have held their Ph.D.s less than two years. Nominations must be written by the nominee’s faculty dissertation advisor (or a suitable substitute intimately familiar with the nominee’s research, if the advisor is unavailable). Nominations should include:

1. A letter of nomination.
2. The CV of the nominee.
3. A one-page abstract of the work to be presented.

Nominations should be sent via email to Rory McVeigh, Director of the Center for the Study of Social Movements,

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Immigrants and Refugees II

In January, we continue our dialogue on immigration with a second set of great essays on immigration. Recent events regarding the migrant/refugee crisis in Europe, Donald Trump’s controversial statements about Mexico and his immigration plan, the mass deportation of Haitians from the Dominican Republic, and the record number and importance of refugees highlight the scope of the issue. For this Mobilizing Ideas‘ dialogue, we focus on movements and activism related to immigration – including mobilizations by immigrants, against their presence, and also by diaspora or refugee populations. We invite contributors to consider the challenges of movements by immigrant populations and to reflect on some of the following questions: How does citizenship affect mobilization efforts? How is immigrant mobilization related to the issues of refugees? How can immigrants frame their grievances to produce sympathy within the native population? How much does dependence limit movement goals? What can the transnational experience teach us about collective action?

Many thanks to our fantastic group of contributors.

Stephanie J. Nawyn, Michigan State University (essay)
Ann Horwitz, University of Maryland (essay)
Hana Brown and Jennifer Jones, Wake Forest University and University of Notre Dame (essay)
Maurizio Albahari, University of Notre Dame (essay)
Jessica Garrick, University of Michigan (essay)

Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo

Leave a comment

Filed under Essay Dialogues, Immigrants and Refugees