Adrien Nemoz was 21 years old when his friends told him in horror that a stained-glass portrait of Marshal Pétain, the French Vichy regime’s authoritarian leader, was hanging in a chapel across the Fourvière Basilica. A tall, imposing Church overlooking Lyon, the Fourvière was seen by many as the moral center of the city. For Nemoz and his peers, it was unconscionable that a tribute to Pétain would hang in this holy place. After all, only several months earlier Pétain had agreed to an armistice with Hitler, resulting in the Nazi occupation of half of France. Something had to be done.
The usefulness of threat in understanding social movements has informed a wide range work on topics like labor strikes, anti-union policies, the creation of ex-gay “therapy” centers and same-sex marriage bans. Naturally, social movements can use actual threats as a powerful mechanism to support mobilization. Left unanswered though is this: can a social movement that has mobilized in response to threat continue to mobilize around it even as objective risk declines?
This is a special phase in the history of the United States, one characterized by threat. Yet, the dynamics of threat are playing out a bit differently now than in the recent past. How so? A short answer: it’s about a clear and focused target for mobilization. To elaborate on that, I will first briefly discuss the concept of threat with an emphasis on how we arrived here. Then, I will consider how threat is important for both activists and observers, how the Trump-era is changing our treatment of threat, and how a historical case from East Asia helps us understand the current situation in the U.S.
While they can vary (considerably), most scholars’ definitions of activism typically involve the idea of participating in activities that are intended to support or oppose social or political change. As an empirical matter, however, movement scholars rarely observe activism in all of its forms. Instead, movement scholars tend to focus on a smaller subset of activities—such as demonstrations, strikes, and occupations—that are more contentious and more modular. Continue reading →
The majority of my research interests seek to answer two of the big questions in social movements scholarship. First, I am a sucker for the “mobilization question.” While some scholars have grown tired of this pursuit, I still find great appeal asking why social mobilization occurs during some times and at some places, but not others. Questions like those offer one succinct way to address the difficult theme of collective agency. Second, I am also interested in understanding the underlying organizational forms of social mobilization. For example, once mobilization occurs, do the participants organize in manners that fall back upon existing social divisions in the wider society or do they instead collect themselves in novel ways that reflect their own ideology and tactical decisions? Continue reading →
I am very grateful for this invitation to present my research in Mobilizing Ideas. As a young scholar, I have been studying social movements, trade unions and other forms of political participation using a variety of methods depending on the research question I needed to answer. Ethnography, life stories and process tracing are the ones I used the most. In this short text, I will focus on the following topics of my scholarly production: 1. Public deliberation and urban movements; 2. The youth condition and political participation; 3. The role of social movements, trade unions and protest on democratization; 4. The struggle of the poor for their socio-political reincorporation; and 5. The multiple scales in the resistance to the globalization of neoliberalism. My aim is to very briefly introduce the core questions and answers I have researched.
On September 21, an estimated 400,000 people assembled in New York City for the largest climate change protest march in U.S. history (and one of the largest single protest events since the anti-Iraq-invasion protests of 2003). How did Bill McKibben and his fellow organizers generate that kind of turnout? While the particular opportunity of an international climate summit at the UN, the extensive reach social media technologies, the wide viewing of the movie Disruption, and the presence of celebrities all probably helped, the central reason seems to be good, old-fashioned organizing.
The New York Times, reporting on preparations for the march, noted that the event was “organized by more than a dozen environmental, labor and social justice groups” which cultivated connections to “1,400 ‘partner organizations’… ranging from small groups to international coalitions” along with students who mobilized participants on “more than 300 college campuses.” Continue reading →
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.
Proponents of the oilsands and the pipeline, including the Prime Minister’s office, have dismissed celebrity involvement in Alberta’s oil industry. According to Yahoo Canada News, the Prime Minister’s Office has commented in the past about “the energy-demanding lifestyle often afforded to such celebrities” and Tim Moen, leader of the Libertarian Party of Canada, referred to it as celebrity cheap talk demonizing Alberta’s oilsands. Moen told Yahoo Canada News that “The people I take seriously are people who actually create solutions. People that find ways to get cheap clean energy into the hands of people who want it.” Continue reading →
The content of Mobilizing Ideas occurs in two threads. The Essay Dialogue is an exchange on a salient topic, featuring insights from scholars and activists, occurring over the course of two months. The Daily Disruption is a blog covering social movements news, from current events to new research by emerging movements scholars. Use the menu at the top or the links below to access either of these full threads.