Data limitations remain one of the challenges of scholars seeking to publish work on social movements and activism. But, there’s a new tool in town that might help social movement scholars overcome some small part of those long-standing data issues. Google recently released a Beta feature called “Google Dataset Search.” The tool compiles datasets that meet their requirements (contain metadata and structured data, and exist on pages with sitemaps). This means there are many datasets that are not being catalogued, but the developers have released guidelines in case others want to ensure their data is included in the search. For a full description of the tool, you can read their blog.
I took the tool for a spin to get a sense how it might be useful for movement scholars. I searched “protest” to get started and was pleasantly surprised that the large number of search results included sites I often search for data (e.g., ICPSR) and many small, one-time studies I’d not heard about prior. Scrolling through, there was a diversity in the type of data (both quantitative and qualitative) as well as in the size and extensiveness of the datasets. In exploring briefly, for instance, I located a dataset containing a twitter archive from the Women’s March in 2017 as well as interview data on protests across Europe.
Right now, I’m working with some lynching data, so I went ahead and searched “lynching” to see what was catalogued. There, I only received 5 search results. On the positive side, I found datasets I did not know about prior, like this one from a data scientist. On the other hand, I did not see data sets I expected like the EJI lynching dataset. The limited terms of inclusion remain a restriction to finding data. However, the capacity to locate unknown and available data is novel and potentially useful, especially for young scholars who are looking for opportunities to publish work in Social Movements.
In the post-Trump era, tools like Resistbot and Countable seek to make political engagement easier and more readily accessible to broader audiences. These tools predetermine which political stakeholders users should contact and ensure that collective action efforts to reach elected officials become automated. Recently, I presented in a course alongside a professor and founder of a new kind of tool that hopes to centralize and simplify many of the processes of collective action. Betsy Sinclair, a political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, developed an online platform she hopes will allow any citizens to start a “micro social movement.” Magnify Your Voice is described as “…the solutions platform for civic, environmental, and political initiatives near you. Create a new project, or join one to help make change in your neighborhood and beyond.” With Magnify, anyone can create a profile and post a project. Take for instance asking faculty to make election day “A Day Off For Democracy.” This particular project seeks to mobilize university members to cancel class and pressure their university president to make election day a holiday. The project has 49 members who support the initiative and 11 who have already taken an action such as cancelling class on election day or emailing their university president. Several are also part of related growing efforts through https://www.educatorpledge.com/ and http://www.adayofffordemocracy.com/. Continue reading
For activists and advocates in developing countries, funding from international donors is often perceived as a sharp double-edged sword. Financial support from development agencies like USAID, DfID, Sida, or Norad, or private foundations like MacArthur, Ford, or Omidyar can represent a resource windfall for the advocacy initiatives, citizen mobilizations, and policy reforms they labor to advance. Such funding grants are typically larger than anything available from domestic sources. Continue reading
As neo-confederate protesters clashed with protesters supporting the taking down of a confederate monument on campus at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, it felt impossible to divorce these recent protests from their historical context. During the 1913 dedication of Silent Sam, the unnamed soldier commemorating those who left college to defend the confederacy, supporters like student Julian Carr called to the historical linkage with the statue. After Dixie played in the background, Carr proudly told the audience of racial violence he himself engaged in just 100 yards from the site of the statue. The “memorial gateway to campus,” as then President Venable referred to it, stood at the entry way to one of the largest thoroughfares at UNC until last week when it was knocked down by protesters.
The statue has been the site of several waves of protest on campus since it’s erection, with increasing frequency in recent years. Thinking back to the origin story of Silent Sam calls us as social movement scholars to push further down a road that historians and economists have paved – a focus on the impacts of historical legacies of slavery. We can ask questions yet to be answered about how histories of racial violence shape activism in communities.
The years of protest around the contentious figure on campus only further demonstrate that legacies of slavery directly impact contemporary experiences. Beyond the well-documented impacts of legacies of racial violence at the city and state level, assuredly there are microcosms on campuses, in communities, and around various statues and memorials that provide opportunities to understand how history shapes modern-era events. Recent events like the one at UNC call us as scholars to develop an understanding of the mechanism by which these legacies shape mobilization.
Lapegna, Pablo (2016), Soybeans and Power: Genetically Modified Crops, Environmental Politics, and Social Movements in Argentina (New York: Oxford University Press).
Soybeans and Power by Pablo Lapegna takes the case of a rural community in Formosa (a northern province of Argentina that borders on Paraguay) to explore a crucial question for social movement studies: how to explain the demobilization of a social movement. A poor community of peasants experiencing local-level impacts of the global process of adoption of genetically modified crops (GMCs) and agrochemicals reacts differently in two instances. In the first instance, in the face of health and economic consequences associated with GMCs cultivation, it responds by mobilizing. In another instance, it reacts to the same consequences differently—by actively demobilizing. These seemingly contradictory strategies leads the author to propose an answer to the crucial question of why people sometimes choose to mobilize and sometimes to demobilize on the same issues and with similar grievances. According to Lapegna, cooptation and clientelism are insufficient explanations, and in this case there is no repression. Therefore, he proposes viewing demobilization as an agency-based process (p. 14, 16) that requires an ethnographic approach in order to appreciate the multiple layers at play in these sorts of dynamics, without overemphasizing the role of the elites while grasping the actors’ understandings of the dynamics at hand. Continue reading
Parkland is increasingly portrayed as the mass shooting that will finally change things, but are pro-gun supporters right to claim that it is but another headline that gun control advocates are allegedly peddling will bring stricter gun control laws? Continue reading
In recent years, a central question for politics in South America has centered on the effect that the emergence of right-wing governments will have on grassroots mobilization throughout the region. Will organizations whose influence expanded during the “pink tide” of progressive administrations decline substantially? Or will they be able to use the resources, expertise, and networks accumulated since the early 2000s to maintain their leverage? Continue reading