Author Archives: Erin M. Evans

About Erin M. Evans

Erin M. Evans is Assistant Professor of Sociology at San Diego Mesa College and Chair-Elect of the Animals & Society section of the American Sociological Association. She specializes in social movements, animal rights, science and technology studies, and institutionalization. Erin is interested in the larger repercussions of institutionalizing movement demands, specifically the effects of incremental policy reform that is used as a strategy by activists. This research underpins the solutions-based nature of her courses like Social Movements, Political Sociology, and Social Problems. Erin's work can be found in Social Movement Studies (2019, 2015), Sociological Perspectives (2016), Society & Animals (2010), and edited volumes such as The Handbook for Political Citizenship (2014), Animals in Human Society (2015), and The Routledge Handbook of Animal Ethics (forthcoming). For more information, please see

Institutional Opportunities and a response to this month’s essay dialogue

The essays posted in this month’s dialogue are so diverse and interesting! Scholars discuss the problems and promises of various choices activists make with their targets. In King’s essay he discusses the danger of cooptation of activists’ when cooperative strategies are used. When activists target the state, or when activists use the state to promote change to non-state targets, what is the effect of the small gains they often achieve? In democracies like the U.S., where the state is designed to absorb factional conflict (Meyer 2015), I think this is one of the most important questions for movements scholars and activists. I grapple with the question of incrementalism versus cooptation in my research. I’m finding a strong case for incrementalism only because of the nature of the movement’s institutional target that I’m examining, specifically, laboratory science. I use the animal advocacy movement and its work to reform and/or end the use of animals in research as my case study. Aligned with Einwohner’s work on “practice opportunity structure,” I think the nature of the institution that activists target determines their choice of strategies and tactics as well as the outcomes of those choices. Continue reading

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A Review of Deana A. Rohlinger’s, Abortion Politics, Mass Media, and Social Movements in America.

Abortion Politics, Mass Media, and Social Movements in America (2015) is Deana A. Rohlinger’s tour de force thus far. The book coalesces her years of research on the abortion debate, social movement organizations, and media discourse in a way that is satisfying and compelling. I was pleased to see so many of the concepts she’s used over the last 10+ years (radical flank, organizational identity vs. reputation, professionalization, branding, etc.) deployed in this book. Finally, we are able to see her extensive data (that includes content analyses of thousands of newspaper, radio, magazine, and television accounts, as well as organizational newsletters, and in-depth interviews with members of the four organizations) used in a comprehensive analysis of a movement in which Rohlinger spent well over a decade of her research career immersed.


As she highlights in the introductory chapter, Rohlinger shifts the conceptual gaze away from examining the power of media outlets to select social movement events and issues for coverage and towards how activists strategize their interactions with mass media. For those of us knee-deep in research that assumes media power, it is refreshing to rethink these interactions as truly interactive, where activists use media as much as media use them. She crafted the entire book to emphasize activists’ and organizations’ ability to partly control and build a media repertoire. By repertoire I mean the very rich set of potential interactions organizations can choose to instigate or sustain with media outlets, including external media (mainstream outlets) and direct media (media organizations control, such as a website or social media profiles). Continue reading

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The Mundanity of Activism: University of California Graduate Students

For the Classical Theory course that incoming graduate students in our department take, David S. Meyer includes an article by Daniel F. Chambliss called “The Mundanity of Excellence: An Ethnographic Report on Stratification and Olympic Swimmers.

Most of the folks in my cohort were perplexed when we read it.

“Maybe it’s for methodological theory, or something?”

“I don’t know, I was thinking he’s trying to appeal to the Inequality people?”

It turned out Professor Meyer was offering advice on academia, generally. Excellence is about persistence and consistent work, not natural ability. Continue reading

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Movements and Institutionalization

Before I started graduate school in my early 30s, I was an activist and organizer through my late teens and 20s. There were some problems that drove me towards wanting to know more, empirically, about the movements in which I invested so much of my youth.

Here are a few of them:

I noticed that the groups I worked with had to deal with state intervention, but had little knowledge about how to respond to that intervention. (Interventions like police repression and brutality, passage of laws that were harmful to the movement’s goals, or even the contradictions involved with getting a permit for mass march.) I noticed that we planned our protests deliberately to get media attention, despite not understanding when or why our protests got the kinds of coverage we wanted. I noticed that a lot of organizations and activists cooperated with politicians on policy reforms, despite not understanding the long-term effects of those policies. I also noticed activists didn’t understand the long-term consequences of more disruptive or militant tactics they used. All of these questions continue to percolate in my thoughts, and in my work. Continue reading


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Planet of the Apes: Pop Culture and Changing Social Consciousness

The 8th edition to the Planet of the Apes franchise was released this Summer. The most recent revival started in 2011 with “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” picked up where “Rise” left off. I won’t go into detail about the storyline since it is such an iconic movie, but the latest two explore the ethical concerns underlying human exploitation of animals, specifically in terms of animal research.

(Spoiler Alert for “Rise.”)

I watched “Rise” about a year ago with my family. During the scene where Caesar leads a revolt against an abusive so-called primate sanctuary, my cousins emphatically rooted for Caesar. They don’t have any strong beliefs in favor of animal advocacy; they were just rooting for the underdog protagonist. The factors that go into a person’s shift towards caring about a social justice issue are multi-faceted, but I think these kinds of popular media cues have an effect that scholars are just starting to examine. Continue reading

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Reproductive Rights, the Supreme Court, and Institutionalization

The most recent Hobby Lobby decision reminded me of previous cases where the Supreme Court adjudicated whether federal and state funding could be used for abortions (Harris v. McRae and Williams v. Zbaras). In 1980 the Supreme Court heard two cases related to the Hyde Amendment of 1976. The Hyde Amendment is a “rider” type of legislation that prohibits federal funding of abortion when it is medically “unnecessary.” In both cases the Court affirmed the law. Scholars of the abortion debate often view the passage of this law and the Court’s support as a critical historical juncture (Ferree, Gamson, Gerhards, and Rucht 2002; Staggenborg 1989). Both the Hyde legislation and the Court’s affirmation represent the first major anti-abortion successes following the Roe v. Wade case (1973). The Roe v. Wade decision was a landmark success for the abortion-rights movement, and the victory sparked a countermobilization that was strong and effective at challenging abortion rights activists (Meyer and Staggenborg 1996). Given the most recent Hobby Lobby decision, the tangible benefits of Roe v. Wade may come into question.  Continue reading

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Movement InFighting: Can it serve a purpose?

The Animal Rights National Conference 2014 (ARNC) will be held in Los Angeles on July 10th-13th. An organization called the Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) organizes the conference. As the organization says on its website, the conference is “the world’s largest & longest-running event dedicated to the liberation of animals from all forms of human exploitation and use.” Even with this clear declaration of “liberation,” and FARM’s history of not participating in politically reformist tactics, FARM’s conference is attacked virtually every year for not being abolitionist, or radical, enough. Prominent figures in the movement, such as Gary L. Francione, accuse the organizers of not adhering to strictly to all-or-nothing vegan advocacy on behalf of animals. Francione is a law professor, author, and a major figurehead in the movement. Most of his current work contains little outside of bashing activists who use anything except educational outreach about veganism. Continue reading


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