The Centre on Social Movement Studies


Contextualizing Contestation: Caught in the Act of Protest

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Donatella della Porta, Lorenzo Bosi, and Massimiliano Andretta





This research project is part of a broader cross-national comparative project, coordinated by Bert Klandermans (Free University of Amsterdam) and Stefaan Walgrave (University of Antwerp) and financed by the European Science Foundation.

Protest participation has been surging throughout Europe and the world as a whole. In most countries political protest has become the modal repertoire citizens employ to demand political changes or to express indignation. Increasingly, governments are confronted with citizens in the act of protest. At the same time, societies have changed dramatically during the last few decades. In our globalizing world, transnational and supranational political institutions impact on people’s daily lives and have transformed the supply of politics. Simultaneously, networks rather than formal organizations have become the prime mode of organizing in our society, while new technologies such as the Internet, e-mail, and cell phones have dramatically changed our means of communication. Yet, how people mobilize for protest in these ‘new’ societal arrangements remains poorly understood.

This project attempts to find answers to the questions of who participates in protest, for what reason, and how they are mobilised. As the motivational dynamics of different forms of participation vary, we chose to focus on one particular type of protest, namely, protest demonstrations. The decision to take part in a protest demonstration is not taken in isolation but within a wider social and political context. We will investigate the impact of contextual variation on the dynamics of protest by comparing demonstrations in different countries and mobilizing contexts. Studies of protest behavior typically focus on a single protest event, which takes contextual variation out. Instead, we will develop comparative designs that enable us to study the influence of the national and mobilizing context. To that end we have developed a common theoretical framework, standardized measures, and techniques of sampling and data collection.

The central tenet of this study is that a specific national context generates a specific mobilizing context; that the interaction of nation and mobilizing context produces a specific type of demonstration; that a specific type of demonstration brings a specific group of protestors into the streets. We assume that the composition of the group of protestors, their motives and the way they are mobilized result from the interaction of national context, mobilizing context, and type of demonstration.







"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.