The Centre on Social Movement Studies


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.



"Standing up for Science" - a documentary by Dieter Rucht

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.