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The Centre on Social Movement Studies

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Riccardo Emilio Chiesta – “Contentious politics by other means. New Environmentalism and the Politics of Expertise in Florence and Venice”

On March 9th 2017, from 5 to 6 p.m., Riccardo Emilio Chiesta (European University Institute) will present a paper entitled “Contentious politics by other means. New Environmentalism and the Politics of Expertise in Florence and Venice”

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Territorial mobilizations concerning big infrastructural projects often become arenas of contention where expertise crosses political and technical claims. In the Italian case, the mobilization of expertise has been recently recognized by activists and intellectuals as one of the major traits of a rising «new environmentalism». The new aspect of this wave of collective action resides in the elaboration of alternative politics linking bottom-up communitarian knowledge with expert advice. This innovation addresses important questions for participation and democracy in general, since expert knowledge maintains indeed a delicate relation with democratic politics. In this paper I aim at analyzing how common citizens, political activists and experts participate in mobilizing expertise, constructing knowledge and finally contributing in making «technical democracy» work. I focus on a comparative study of mobilizations occurred in the city of Venice and Florence, given their importance for the rise of the so called «new environmentalism». Analyzing 4 protest campaigns I will shed lights on the mechanisms of co-production focusing on bottom-up expertise mobilization as well as on experts enrollment and their peculiar forms of engagement. In both cities I have selected 2 cases depending from their variation in conflict intensity and citizens’ participation. While in each city some problems tend to be confined in restricted mobilizations – regarding mainly activists and experts – others show high levels of participation and broader knowledge diffusion. Using a contentious politics approach, I investigate the social and political conditions characterizing these 4 protest campaigns together with the type of infrastructural projects. Crossing these two main dimensions – political conditions and technological factors – allows to look at the role of different expert cultures (professional and disciplinary habitus) and their interaction/intersection with political cultures (e.g. political ecologist, conservationist, environmentalist). This gives indeed the possibility to analyze practices and cultures at the border of politics and expertise. To get a general picture of the actors mobilizing I started conducting a media analysis on the main newspaper at the city level. I’ve integrated these informations with the analysis of documents produced by the different actors involved – from citizens groups to social movements organizations – like on-line web sources, newsletters, press release and dossiers, petitions, scientific articles and books. The main data have been gathered through an intensive ethnographic fieldwork in the cities, attending public meetings, assemblies, demonstrations and finally interviewing the main concerned actors. I conducted more than 50 in-depth interviews with public authorities, experts, activists and citizens playing a central role in the mobilization.

News

28/09/2020

Four post-doctoral research positions on the pandemic

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The Scuola Normale Superiore announces four post-doctoral positions to be activated as part of the research project “After the coronavirus pandemic: The effects of the health emergency on society and knowledge.” 

26/02/2020

CFP Athens conference "Capitalism, Democracy, Contention: A Decade of Crisis" 13-15 May 2020

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Aspiring to shed light on the Greek experience in the era of crisis in a comparative, inter-disciplinary perspective, the Laboratory on Contentious Politics (Department of Political Science and History, Panteion University, Athens), the Centre on Social Movement Studies (Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence) and the Hellenic Political Science Association are organizing an international conference to be held at Panteion University, on 13, 14 and 15 May 2020.

12/12/2019

Prof. Donatella Della Porta to Be Awarded Honorary PhD

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On Friday 13, 2019, the University of the Peloponnese (PSIR) will award an honorary doctorate to Professor Donatella Della Porta, Dean of the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences at the Scuola Normale Superiore.

22/07/2019

Protest for a future: international report on #FridaysForFuture and the climate strike

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Composition, mobilization and motives of the participants in Fridays For Future climate protests on 15 March 2019, in 13 European cities. A multi-country collaboration report, with contributions from COSMOS researchers Lorenzo Zamponi, Donatella della Porta, Martín Portos, Niccolò Bertuzzi and Daniela Chironi.

21/06/2019

Call for papers: "The Nation and the Radical Left - Practices and Discourses of National Identity in Left-Wing Politics"

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The call for papers is now open for a conference on national identities and left-wing politics.

18/06/2019

Call for papers: “Class without consciousness” – The Politics of Fragmented Class Identities

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The call for papers is now open for a two-day conference on class and identities at the Scuola Normale Superiore on 14-15 November 2019

Publications

Edited Volume - 2021

Varieties of Populism in Europe in Times of Crises

Manuela Caiani & Paolo Graziano
Populism is booming across all the nuances of the political spectrum. It occupies relevant positions in national parliaments, in governmental coalitions with mainstream parties or as successful challengers of the political status quo. This volume sheds new light on the topic from different methodological and theoretical angles and offers evidence from a variety of cases on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions on populism’s emergence and consolidation in Europe over the past 30 years.

Journal Article - 2021

Populism between voting and non-electoral participation

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The article focuses on a neglected aspect of populist mobilisation, i.e. non-electoral participation (NEP), and elaborates on the extent to which populist party voters engage politically outside the polling station. While challenging common understandings of populism as inherently distrustful and apathetic, and protest as an exclusive practice of the left, the study critically places NEP at the heart of populism in general, and populist right politics in particular.

Monograph - 2021

Migrant Protest. Interactive Dynamics in Precarious Mobilizations

Elias Steinhilper
This book explores the interactions and spaces shaping the emergence, trajectory, and fragmentation of migrant protest in unfavorable contexts of marginalization.

Journal Article - 2020

We protect the forest beings, and the forest beings protect us: Cultural resistance in the Ecuadorian Amazonia

Leonidas Oikonomakis
The inhabitants of Sarayaku have forged an anti-colonial, anti-extractivist, and anti-capitalist resistance culture. How did that culture develop? How is it articulated? Moreover, how is kawsak sacha positioned in the discussion over the rights of Nature in Latin America? Based on three months of ethnographic research in the community of Sarayaku and more than twenty-five interviews with community members, this article addresses those important questions and argues that securing legal protection may not be a long-term resistance strategy.

Monograph - 2020

The Contentious Politics of Expertise. Experts, activism and grassroots environmentalism

Riccardo Emilio Chesta
Based on mixed-methods research and ethnographic fieldwork at various sites in Italy, this book examines the relationship between expertise and activism in grassroots environmentalism. Bridging the sociology of expertise and contentious politics, the book shows how conflict transforms, rather than inhibits, expertise production into a ‘contentious politics by other means’.

Journal Article - 2019

Alliance building and eventful protests: comparing Spanish and Portuguese trajectories under the Great Recession

Martín Portos & Tiago Carvalho
Social movement research has shed light on the relationship between processes of alliance building and multiple factors related to political opportunities, framing, identities, networks and resource mobilization. However, less is known about the impact of eventful protests on coalition building dynamics.

Monograph - 2019

Social Mobilization beyond Ethnicity. Civic Activism and Grassroots Movements in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Chiara Milan
This book offers an in-depth investigation of the emergence and spread of social mobilizations that transcend ethnicity in societies violently divided along ethno-national lines. Using Bosnia Herzegovina as a case study, the book explores episodes of mobilization which have superseded ethno-nationalist cleavages.

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Andrea Pirro, Elena Pavan, Adam Fagan & David Gazsi
In this article, we extend our understanding of fringe politics to include relational and thematic elements, namely, the relationship of far-right collective actors with their broader network and the claims made within it. By focusing on often neglected relational and thematic aspects, the study provides new ways to analyse fringe collective actors, the relationship with their environment and the evolution of such a relationship over time.

Journal Article - 2019

From the Rainy Place to the Burnt Palace: How Social Movements Form their Political Strategies. The Case of the Six Federations of the Tropic of Cochabamba

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Exploring the case of the cocaleros of the Chapare, this article argues that more emphasis should be placed on mechanisms that are internal to the movements, such as: (a) the resonance of other political experiences at home and abroad, (b) internal struggles for ideological hegemony, and (c) the political formation of their grassroots.

Monograph - 2019

Resistere alla crisi. I percorsi dell'azione sociale diretta

Lorenzo Bosi, Lorenzo Zamponi
Uno studio in profondità su solidarietà, mutualismo e organizzazione dal basso nell'Italia della crisi.