The field of social movement and protest research is today expansive and vibrant, with one of the largest ASA research sections and several publication outlets for our work. I am honored that Mobilization has played a role in our field’s astounding growth. To celebrate next year’s volume 25 of Mobilization and the commencement of its silver-anniversary year of publication, here are some threads of the Moby’s backstory to illuminate how we arrived at where we are today.
Author Archives: Mobilizing Ideas
BY Zakiya Luna
When I think of what was most important to me about Mobilizationwhen I first encountered it –and my continuing relationship to the social movement scholarly community it represented I think of what I did not see. There wasn’t space in social movement scholarship for people who cared about race and gender—or people of color— and thanks to shifts in the subfield, sociology and protest, there is a bit more now. We were invited by the Mobilizing idea blog to reflect as “scholars like you who have had a past (or present) connection to the journal and are in a position to write about the importance of the journal for your own scholarship and for social movement scholarship more generally.” I was a Notre Dame Young Scholar in 2012 so I contributed to the Mobilizing Ideas blog after that, even helping coordinate a dialogue on Roe and reproductive activism. I eventually published in the journal in 2017. Also, I have been active in the ASA Collective Behavior & Social Movements section, the membership of which overlaps with Mobilization readers, and attended all the Mobilization conferences so far, corralling students and faculty friends to attend.
This year, the journal Mobilization is turning 25. The first issue of Mobilization was published in 1996 at a time when social movement researchers had a lot of great ideas, but limited options for publishing cutting edge research papers in a journal that directly targeted the growing community of social movement scholars. Mobilization is unusual, too, in that it was founded and is still owned and operated by a leading social movement scholar, Hank Johnston (currently at San Diego State University)—rather than some large publishing corporation. It is currently edited by Neal Caren and Marco Giugni and Maria Grasso serve as the European editors.
This month, we have six outstanding contributors. Many thanks for their contributions on this topic:
- Hank Johnston, San Diego State University (essay).
- Valentine M. Moghadam, Northeastern University (essay).
- Kristian Skrede Gleditsch, University of Essex (essay).
- Jennifer Earl, University of Arizona (essay).
- Holly McCammon, Vanderbilt University (essay).
- Zakiya Luna, University of California, Santa Barbara (essay).
Editors in Chief,
Rory McVeigh, David Ortiz, Guillermo Trejo, and Grace Yukich
In 2005, Suzanne Staggenborg and Verta Taylor published an article in Mobilization titled, “Whatever Happened to the Women’s Movement?” I remember being very intrigued not only by the title but the authors’ cogent and useful insights as well. Today this piece remains one of my favorite Mobilization articles, for a variety of reasons. The article wrestles with fundamental questions in the study of social movements, including, what is a social movement? It calls upon us to think carefully about how we define social movements, their structures, and actions. The authors offer compelling evidence that some definitions can impede our ability to see key forms of activism. The article also provides a detailed overview of feminist activism from the vantage point of the mid-2000s, a period when public collective protest events for this movement had less visibility. Yet, as these authors demonstrate, in a variety of realms of society feminist mobilization during that period of time remained bold and consequential. We just needed to understand how to see it.
The first issue of Mobilization was published in March, 1996, about five months before I started graduate school. The second issue came out in September, 1996 just after my first classes began. In a very real way, the development of many careers, especially my own, has been intertwined with its growth and development over the intervening years. This is certainly true on a surface level in terms of the publishing opportunities offered by the journal, but I argue it is true for all of us on a much deeper level: Mobilization both reflected our growing field and enabled and fueled its growth. Put differently, Mobilization and the study of social movements, protest, and collective action have co-constituted one another across time, allowing each to grow and thrive in ways that would be unimaginable without the other.
When Mobilization was launched in 1996, I had just returned to the U.S. and academia after six years with the United Nations University’s WIDER Institute, as the sole non-economist and only sociologist working on international development. My years at UNU/WIDER had given me the space and time to engage in solo and collaborative research on new forms of social movements – not “new social movements” per se, but rather the growing trend of Islamist movements and its opposite, the growing worldwide movement of women’s rights and feminist advocacy. I had always been engaged in research (and activism) on Iran, but the UNU/WIDER years had enabled me to conduct research in North African countries, among others, which resulted – many years later – in a co-authored piece in Mobilization, entitled “Political Opportunities and Strategic Choices: Comparing Feminist Campaigns in Morocco and Iran”(vol. 15, no. 3, Sept. 2010, pp. 267-88).
Mobilization has published a number of important articles over its 25 year lifespan, but one contribution that I have found particularly useful is the 2006 Hess and Martin article on when repressive events may backfire. The starting point of their analysis is the simple observation that repression of dissent in some cases leads to greater mobilization when repression generates public outrage against the repressor. Repression may in this sense “backfire” and undermine the state, thus marking a transformative event for social movements. Hess and Martin argue that in order for repression to backfire information about the event must be revealed or be accessible to the relevant audience, and the repressive events must be perceived as unjust, as for example when peaceful protest is met by disproportionate violent repression. Hess and Martin illustrate their argument by detailed analysis of three case where repression backfired, including how support for independence in India increase following efforts to repress the 1930 Salt March.