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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

14/09/2018

Andrea Pirro appointed as new editor of East European Politics

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Andrea Pirro has been recently appointed as new editor of the journal East European Politics published by Taylor and Francis.

31/08/2018

Volkswagen foundation Grant 2018 for Manuela Caiani

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Manuela Caiani has been awarded the Volkswagen Grant 2018 for the research project Popular Music as a Medium for the Mainstreaming of Populist Ideologies in Europe, that will be directed by Mario Dunkel (University Carl von Ossietzky of Oldenburg, Germany).

30/07/2018

ERC Starting Grant 2018 for Alice Mattoni

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Alice Mattoni, Research Fellow at COSMOS and Assistant Professor at the Department of Political and Social Sciences of the Scuola Normale Superiore, has been awarded the ERC Starting Grant 2018 for the research project BIT-ACT: Bottom-up initiative and anti-corruption technologies: how citizens use ICTs to fight corruption.

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Journal Article - 2018

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Based on novel empirical research, this paper analyzes a crucial and understudied case of a movement pushing for new technologies: the animal rights movement and its efforts to push for alternatives to animal experimentation.

Journal Article - 2018

Mobilizing in transnational contentious spaces: linking relations, emotions and space in migrant activism

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The article illustrates how the transnational spaces most migrants inhabit can be politicized and transformed into particular social formations, for which the term ‘transnational contentious spaces’ is suggested.