The Centre on Social Movement Studies


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.



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A documentary by Dieter Rucht on the 2017 March for Science in Washington, D.C. - now available on YouTube.


COSMOS Talks Calendar - Second Semester 2018

Read here the full calendar of the COSMOS Talks Series


Call for Application Now Open: Summer School on Concepts and Methods for Research on Far-Right Politics

We are pleased to announce that the call for applications is now open for the 1st Summer School of the ECPR Standing Group on Extremism & Democracy on ‘Concepts and Methods for Research on Far-Right Politics’, sponsored by the Centre for Research on Extremism (C-REX), the European Council for Political Research (ECPR), and the Centre on Social Movement Studies (COSMOS).


Edited Volume - 2018

Solidarity Mobilizations in the ‘Refugee Crisis’. Contentious Moves

Donatella della Porta (ed.)
This edited volume ddresses a gap in research on social movements that has disregarded the origins of discontent and overlooks protest as a resource of the powerless; it offers insight into how the movement of refugees across the European Union and elsewhere activates political opportunities; it explores claims to citizenship made by refugees within processes of knowledge production and the mobilization of emotions

Journal Article - 2017

Reshaping Citizenship through Collective Action: Performative and Prefigurative Practices in the 2013–2014 Cycle of Contention in Bosnia & Hercegovina

Chiara Milan
This essay analyses the strategic practices adopted by social movement actors during the 2013 and 2014 mobilisations in Bosnia & Hercegovina. By bridging critical citizenship studies with literature on social movements, it classifies them as belonging to the realm of activist citizenship, but also as having a performative and prefigurative dimension.