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The Centre on Social Movement Studies

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Peter McLoughlin – “Exiting Political Violence: The Northern Ireland Case and the Importance of Providing Militants with a Viable ‘Exit Strategy'”

Time and Place: Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, Scuola Normale Superiore – Palazzo Strozzi, Florence – Room Filippo Strozzi, 7 November 2017, 2.30pm

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This paper looks at Northern Ireland, a site of sustained ethnic conflict from the late 1960s until the emergence of a peace process in the 1990s. Focusing on the latter, it considers how the most enduring and lethal paramilitary group in this conflict, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), was persuaded to abandon violence and adopt a peaceful approach to Irish reunification. In doing so, it explores the role of other Irish nationalist elites, particularly those representing non-violent stands of Irish nationalism. Accordingly, the paper looks specifically at the macro-level of the Northern Ireland peace process, relating the structural conditions which prompted the PIRA’s change in strategy to the way in which outside actors were able to effect republicans’ perceptions of their situation and available options.

The paper utilises Zartman’s (1991) conception of a “mutually hurting stalemate,” suggesting that by the late 1980s senior republicans had recognised the structural constraints of their position – though the PIRA could not be defeated, it had been successfully contained by British security forces. However, the paper builds upon Zartman’s ideas by discussing the crucial intervention of non-violent Irish nationalist actors at this stage, showing how they helped to move the situation beyond this stalemate by providing republicans with an honourable “exit strategy.” Specifically, the paper explains how an effective alliance of constitutional nationalist actors – the Social Democratic and Labour Party, the Irish government, and Irish-American elites – offered a way for republicans to combine their energies with theirs in a peaceful approach towards Irish reunification. Crucially, this allowed the PIRA leadership to present its rank and file with a viable, political alternative to violence, minimising dissent from those who claimed that a change in strategy surrendered the ideal of a united Ireland. The paper suggests that this allowed Irish republican leaders to steer their movement towards peaceful politics without significant splits – a process which may have implications for other, similar scenarios.

News

13/12/2017

Call for Paper: Conference “1968-2018, fifty years after: Where is the social movements field going?”

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Taking the 1968 anniversary as a stimulating moment for reflection, this conference seeks to provide space for looking at the implications of that period on social movement research as well as addressing a number of key questions in current social movement research.

04/12/2017

Martin Portos Garcia wins the ISA's Seventh Worldwide Competition for Junior Sociologists

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The International Sociological Association has just announced the list of the winners of the Seventh Worldwide Competition for Junior Sociologists engaged in social research, amongst which Martin Portos Garcia - post-doc fellow at COSMOS

10/11/2017

Call for Application Now Open: Summer School on Youth Political Participation in Times of Inequalities

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We are pleased to announce that the call for applications is now open for the Summer School on Youth Political Participation in Times of Inequalities, sponsored by the Reinventing Democracy in Europe: Youth Doing Politics in Times of Increasing Inequalities project (EURYKA) and the Centre on Social Movement Studies (COSMOS).

Publications

Journal Article - 2017

Repertoires of knowledge practices: Social movements in times of crisis

Donatella della Porta and Elena Pavan
Starting from the assumption that knowledge becomes all the more important for movements in times of crisis, as old structures are challenged and new ones envisaged and proved feasible, the purpose of this paper is to suggest ways to expand the toolkit of social movement studies in order to empirically address knowledge practices as a meaningful part of contemporary progressive activism.

Journal Article - 2017

’Solidarietà sconvenienti’. Reti online di estrema destra contro e per la riforma dell’Europa

Elena Pavan and Manuela Caiani
By focusing on the websites of extreme right organizations in six European countries (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom) and by making a combined use of digital research tools and social network analysis, we explore how extreme right organizations make a strategic use of ICTs to connect in the online space and the arguments they move forward to criticize and reform current projects of European integration. Our results suggest that ICTs sustain the construction of inconvenient solidarities in heterogeneous ways, supporting different modes of online conversations amongst extreme right websites which, in turn, affect their capacity to propose shared critiques and proposals to reform the European Union.