Tag Archives: collective action

Lessons on the 25th Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide

By Nicole Fox & Hollie Nyseth Brehm

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which claimed the lives of upwards of one million people. While many Rwandans actively participated in genocidal violence by killing their neighbors, friends and fellow parishioners, hundreds—if not thousands—made a vastly different decision: they actively saved others who were persecuted. As part of a larger project on the social factors that shape rescue efforts during genocide, we had the privilege this week to speak with those who saved others, 25 years ago.

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The Central American “Caravan” as a Political Act

By Cecilia Menjívar

News media up to the midterm elections were saturated with images of Central American immigrants traveling north in “caravans,” with images of an impending “invasion” of criminals or terrorists who would threaten the safety and security of most Americans. In the midst of the panic, the Department of Homeland Security even issued a fact sheet about the caravan that listed concerns about criminals traveling north, asserting that there were 270 individuals with criminal histories along the caravan route. The U.S. President would regularly announce to a public already primed to fear crime and criminals filtering through the southern border that the invaders needed to be contained. The administration’s response was Operation Faithful Patriot, comprised of the deployment of up to 15,000 active-duty military troops to Texas, Arizona, and California. And even though the broadcasting of such alarmist declarations decreased dramatically immediately after the midterms, the Commander in Chief did order 5,600 American troops to be deployed to the border, where they will remain waiting for the “caravan” to arrive. Authorities have used tear gas on the migrants who have tried to set foot on U.S. soil to seek asylum.

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Mobilizing Threat

By Greg Prieto

While grievances are common, collective mobilization to address them is rare. Take the case of Xiomara, whom I profile in my new book Immigrants Under Threat. An undocumented single mother of three sons, she fled her home state of Zacatecas, Mexico in 2001 and crossed the border without authorization to escape her abuser, to be nearer to her sisters in California, and to avail herself of the economic opportunities al norte. Shortly after Xiomara arrived to California’s Central Coast, she met a man and the abuse began anew. Too fearful that her undocumented status would land her in deportation proceedings, she called the police only when her abuser began threatening her young sons. Besieged by the legal violence of the deportation regime, on one side, and gender violence, on the other, Xiomara recalled the period as a dark one, one in which she felt immobilized, deeply fearful, and alone.

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Comparing Immigrant Political Participation

This year saw numerous episodes of mobilization by immigrants and non-immigrants alike. In Sweden, protesters mobilized against police in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood of Stockholm. Protesters in Cologne, Germany organized against the anti-immigration party, the AfD. London protesters held an event at the U.S. embassy in London against Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban.” And, protesters in the U.S. mobilized against Trump and his administration’s views and positions on immigration with “A Day Without Immigrants.” Continue reading

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5 reasons why online Big Data is Bad Data for researching social movements

By Jen Schradie

bigbaddata

I know, I know, it’s digital blasphemy to say that using Internet data is a terrible way to study social movements. What about all of those Twitter and Facebook revolutions of the Arab Spring? And Occupy Wall Street? #Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter spread like wildfire, for God’s sake.

You may think that I’m a luddite who doesn’t see the sheer statistical splendor and speed of social network diagrams or automated text analyses made from Tweets.  Or, perhaps you’re thinking that old-school scholars just don’t get it: digital activism is the future, so we need to disrupt, innovate and flatten those hierarchical Marxist social movement sociologists.

But before you reach through your screen and strangle me with your iPhone charger cord, consider these ways in which online data, whether social media or otherwise, might not be as representative or generalizable as they are fast and efficient. Continue reading

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Social Movements, Institutions and Policy Outcomes

In light of the recent proliferation of mass mobilization events like Occupy/99%, immigrant rights, the Arab Spring, and the Ukrainian protests, many interested in social movements have turned their attention to protest participation. No doubt, this new wave of protest research has provided important theoretical insights on mobilization as well as methodological advancements.

However, scholars have also recently pointed to important organizational and institutional aspects of social movements and social change that should not be overlooked. In fact, the two recent Charles Tilly Book Award winners, Drew Halfmann and Kathleen Blee, address these very aspects of mobilization.

When I began studying the disability rights movement, it became apparent that understanding mobilization, social change and policy outcomes required looking beyond grassroots protest and other forms of direct action to understand America’s disability rights revolution. Indeed, the disability rights movement shines light on several important themes in political sociology, which my work seeks to address, including a current book project I am developing. Continue reading

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Creating Connections

Research on collective action tends to focus on the formidable structural obstacles that disadvantaged people face when they challenge the status quo. These groups often lack resources, such as money and volunteer labor. They often face a political structure in which elites bar them access or unite against them. They may experience direct coercion; they may be economically dependent on the very thing they wish to challenge; or they may anticipate defeat before even starting (Gaventa 1982).

Yet even when these broader conditions change, expanding the number of committed activists is fraught with difficulty. Groups fighting to create change often struggle to garner sympathy from the community in which they work. Or they may gain sympathy but struggle to recruit others to join them in acting against a threat (Beyerlein and Hipp 2006; Oegema and Klandermans 1994). Favorable organizational and political conditions alone do not by themselves create a resonant connection between committed activists and potential participants.

Before potential participants join efforts for change, groups with resources must create social ties, share understandings, overcome symbolic boundaries, and build trust together. Continue reading

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On Time, Agents, and Comparisons

By Burrel Vann Jr.

The Civil Rights Movement has been central to our understanding of social movements and critical for the development of social movement theory. We’ve amassed a rich history of the movement, with various scholars focusing on particular periods and places, instances of collective action, and both individual and structural precipitants and consequences of activism.

The focus on such an influential movement has been and will continue to be beneficial to our understanding of collective action processes insofar as researchers engage in intra- and inter-movement comparative work. Research that tracks one movement across time will highlight the long trajectories movements typically have (i.e., when movements begin and end); it can also tell us a great deal about changes in collective action processes at different stages, and how and when these are sparked. Additionally, work that compares findings from the Civil Rights Movement to the processes at work in other movements can demonstrate the generalizability of our theories.

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Filed under Essay Dialogues, Origins of Social Movements

China Labor Protests Dataset

With the acceleration of market reforms in the 1990s, the Chinese economy and society underwent a series of major changes. The radical shift of economic system records aggregate GDP growth rate of about 10 percent every year. However, recent waves of mass protest across the country reveal the dark side of China’s economic boom. While citizens’ standards of living are continuing to increase, income inequality has grown to a factor of threat. Individuals belonging to losing groups amidst these wrenching changes have increasingly protested. The number of mass incidents, especially the labor incidents is large and increasing, but the exact number is unknown.

In the absence of official government statistics, I would like to recommend two crowd-mapped data sets on labor strikes in China:

1. China Labour Bulletin

This data set keeps tracking of strikes, protests and other contentious, collective actions taken by Chinese workers to defend their rights and interests. It covers the years 2011 to present and its regular research reports have used Chinese newspapers’ websites, dissident blogs, and information from the organization’s call-in radio show. It is constantly being updated.

2. China Strike

This data set is maintained by a PhD candidate in Political Science at Cornell University. It collects news reports of worker protests between January 1, 2008 and April, 2013, counting more than 800 incidents. According to the instructions, “only contentious, collective actions by workers over workplace issues are included. Thus, land disputes or environmental protests, though important in their own right, are excluded from this site.”

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Upcoming special issue of American Behavioral Scientist: Colonialism, Genocide, and Indigenous Struggles in the Americas

I’d like to direct readers’ attention to an upcoming special issue of American Behavioral Scientist, focusing on historical and contemporary issues relating to dispossession, violence, and colonialism against indigenous peoples in the Americas. For interested readers, there are some preliminary articles from this issue that are now available online. The violent dispossession of indigenous peoples was a predominant feature of American territorial expansion, and created enduring settler-colonial institutions and relations that continue to structure indigenous-U.S. politics (Steinman 2012). This violence was perhaps most pronounced and systematic in mid-19th century California. Here state and local officials explicitly sanctioned numerous collective efforts by militias and settler groups to decimate indigenous peoples, and passed numerous laws and statutes that relegated indigenous peoples to extreme social and political marginality  (Almaguer 1994; Madley 2008, 2009). Although basic facts of this violent colonization and settlement are relatively well-known, it is only recently that historians have begun to systematically document and explore the state’s violent past. Continue reading

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