Tag Archives: repression

Regimes versus Repression: The Unraveling of Democratic Institutions

By Jennifer Earl

Researchers interested in repression have historically seen repression as something independent from regime type (even if certain kinds of regimes may be more likely to repress), something that is costly and hence scarce (creating important allocation decisions for states where they decide who to repress, how much, and how often), and something that primarily has impacts on extra-institutional action. In other words, while non-democratic states may be more likely to repress movements, democratic states also engage in repression. Also, even non-democratic states don’t necessarily repress all extra-institutional engagement because they cannot afford to, they fear backfire if they tried, or they simply don’t see a need to. Moreover, there are many things that create political opportunities for protest (or limit them) and repression is only one element in the larger political environment. Indeed, even in states that are very antagonistic to protest (e.g., China), repression is still selective. Continue reading

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Understanding Journalist Killings as Acts of Localized Repression

By Anita Gohdes

The Committee to Protect Journalists has been alarming the public for the past few years: journalists are being killed in increasing numbers and the vast majority of perpetrators continue to go unpunished. Why are journalists killed, and how can we understand the political context in which these egregious murders occur? For the past three years, Sabine Carey and I have been collecting information on the characteristics of journalist killings across the world. In particular, we are interested in understanding how journalist killings fit into more general politics. Here I will highlight two main insights the data has provided: 1) The killing of journalists is a manifestation of localized repression, and 2) that most journalists are killed in democratic countries with low levels of judicial accountability. Continue reading

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Violence Against the Press in Mexico

By Katherine Corcoran

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Repression of Black Social Movements

By Crystal Nicole Eddins

Even during times of ‘normalcy’, or non-protest cycles, African descendants’ structural realities are constrained and shaped by oppressive targeting due to pervasive, institutionalized racism and capitalist exploitation. Repression against black people’s resistance activities historically has been especially heightened and involving a considerable amount of violence and public spectacle. For example, during enslavement those who escaped or rebelled were publicly whipped, beheaded in town squares, and subject to medieval torture devices. Prior to the Haitian Revolution, the most successful enslaved people’s rebellion, the French ‘breaking wheel’ was used to disembowel known maroon leaders. Co-conspirators in Denmark Vesey’s 1822 plot in South Carolina were publicly hanged; and members of the 1811 German Coast uprising in Louisiana were beheaded and had their heads put on spikes dotted along a major river. In each case, these measures were used to deter other rebels from taking their freedom into their own hands by standing up to societies that were founded on the assumption and structuration of black inferiority and subjugation. Continue reading

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The Rashomon Effect in Three Headlines/Stories

We are familiar with framing effects, and aware that different news media use headlines and content to frame stories differently.  Christian Davenport recently explored the issue in some depth in his 2010 book.  Over the weekend a very nice illustration of this problem unfolded with respect to the Standing Rock (Sioux) Tribe’s #NoDAPL protests against the North Dakota Access Pipe Line being built by Energy Transfer Partners with the support of the US Army Corps of Engineers North Dakota.

Writing for the Associated Press, James MacPherson (@MacPhersonJA) used the “balanced and objective” passive voice construction so prized by the Western news outlets that grew dominant during the mid 20th Century.  Here is an image of his story published by ABC News.


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Informing Activists: What are the risks of activism and can I reduce those risks?

Heidi Reynolds-Stenson

What are the risks of activism and can I reduce those risks?

Recommended Readings:


della Porta, Donatella, and Herbert Reiter. 1998. “The Policing of Protest in Western Democracies” in Policing Protest: The Control of Mass Demonstrations in Western Democracies, by della Porta, Donatella and Herbert Reiter (eds). Minneapolis MN: University of Minnesota Press. p.1-34.


Earl, Jennifer. 2011. “Political repression: Iron fists, velvet gloves, and diffuse control.” Annual Review of Sociology 37: 261-284.


Rafail, Patrick, Sarah A. Soule, and John D. McCarthy. 2012. “Describing and Accounting for the Trends in US Protest Policing, 1960− 1995.” Journal of conflict resolution 56:736-765.

We would like to thank the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for their support of the Youth Activism Project through the Youth and Participatory Politics Research Network.

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Mass Violence, Ethnic Competition, and Social Movement Scholarship

For some time social scientists that study mass violence, right wing and repressive social movements, and interethnic and interracial competition have analyzed similar collective phenomena using quite different theoretical frameworks. Inattention to theoretical overlaps across these subfields has not prevented scholars within them from generating robust findings and insights, but it has hampered efforts toward the development of a broader synthetic research agenda on social movements, violence, and social control. This inattention is particularly important given the recent movement of scholarship on mass violence and racial/ethnic competition toward meso- and micro-levels of analysis, placing them squarely within the territory of social movement scholarship (Collins 2008; Cunningham 2012, 2013; Karstedt 2013; King 2004; Owens et al. 2013; Tilly 2003).

My research addresses these issues by focusing on the role of collective action in constructing, defending, or transforming structures of racial, ethnic, and political inequality. Specifically, I focus on the mobilization of social control efforts by nominal power holders against disadvantaged groups, and seek to extend macro-level theories of interethnic competition and group threat by specifying the meso-level mechanisms that mobilize or demobilize adherents across divergent social environments. Continue reading

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Review of Rise of the Warrior Cop

Radley, Balko. 2013. Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. Public Affairs.

Radley, Balko. 2013. Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces. Public Affairs.

For the past several years the month of May has borne witness to The Purple Hatter’s Ball, a music festival at Suwanee River State Park, FL, that celebrates the life of Rachel Hoffman.  Rachel is a relatively well known victim of the USA’s “war on drugs.”[1]  She was murdered in May, 2008 on a rural road in Tallahassee, FL by two young men who were not drug dealers, but had nonetheless been approached by Rachel because a friend had told her they could sell her $13,000 worth of drugs and guns.  The Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) had used a minor marijuana possession charge to pressure Rachel–who used, but did not sell drugs–to participate in this “sting” operation, and on that night in May she had $13,000 of U.S. taxpayer money in her possession.  Her communication with the TPD’s officers running the sting failed, and the teenagers who had made no attempt to obtain either the drugs or guns they told Rachel they could provide her ended up shooting her, taking the money, and escaping (they were eventually arrested, several days later, as they began spending the cash).  In short, the TPD created a drug buyer who did not exist, allowed her to locate drug dealers who weren’t, botched the electronics, and one person died while two petty teenage criminals became murderers, generating grieving and loss across three families, along with hundreds of friends.[2] Continue reading

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Beyond the Repression-Dissent Nexus: Putting Violence in Its Place

By Dana M. Moss

Studies of mobilization have long been preoccupied with understanding the effects of repression on protest. However, as Mark Lichbach remarks, the search for models—whether linear, U-shaped, S-shaped, or otherwise—leaves scholars “forever correlating the total aggregate level of one output (government repression) with the total aggregate level of the other output (opposition activity)” (1987: 288). Furthermore, conceptual and analytical inconsistencies persist; aggregated event counts and indicators denoting low, moderate, and high levels of repression vary based on what type of crackdowns “count” as severe and have been accounted for in the media or NGO reports (Davenport 2007).

Because the question “does repression increase or decrease protest?” has dominated the research agenda, I suggest that we revisit our orienting questions. For example, what kinds of repression do activists perceive as severe? Which governmental agents, entities, and affiliates do the repressing, and what does this mean for the short-term outcomes of movement-government standoffs? Which social movements are most at risk for violent repression?  And how does the character of a regime shape its propensity for violence?  In an effort to expand our conceptualization of the repression-dissent nexus in potentially fruitful and specific ways, I outline several suggestions below. Continue reading

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Inside the Minds of Activists: Why Their Views of Repression Matter

By Sharon Erickson Nepstad

After decades of research on social movement repression, we know that states’ punitive actions do not always have the intended effect. Movements have survived harsh crackdowns and, under the right circumstances, they may even expand when regime brutality provokes outrage. There is a growing literature on the conditions that increase this type of “backfire” (see, for instance, Hess and Martin, 2006 and Chenoweth and Stephan, 2011). Yet these studies primarily focus on factors such as the extent of diversity within the movement, the presence of alternative media, the degree of global attention, and the strategic efforts of political leaders and resisters to spin the repressive event in their favor. While these studies have significantly advanced our knowledge, what is still lacking is an examination of protesters’ own attitudes toward repression. I propose that this can have an important influence on whether they persist in the face of potentially dangerous sanctions. Continue reading


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