The Centre on Social Movement Studies


Manuela Caiani


Manuela Caiani  is Associate Professor in Political Science at the Scuola Normale Superiore, where she is part of the COSMOS (Centre on Social Movement Studies) research team. She has received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Florence, Italy, in 2006 and is the past recipient of various post doctoral fellowships (Doctoral TRA Fellowship, START Center, 2009, University of Maryland, USA), among which the Marie Curie (Rey Juan Carlos University, Madrid) grant. She has received her national Italian Abilitazione for full professorship in Political Science and in Political Sociology, in 2017.

Her research focuses on Social Movements and Europeanization/transnationalization; Far Right Politics; Extremism online; Populism; Movement-parties; Qualitative methods of social research. She is Convenor of the Standing Group ‘Political Participation and Social Movements’ of the Italian Political Science Association (SISP) and Coordinator of the Master in Political Science and Sociology of the Scuola Normale Superiore. She is Co-director of the International Observatory on Social Cohesion and Inclusion-OCIS, https://osservatoriocoesionesociale.eu/.

Prof. Caiani has directed and collaborated in various international projects (Horizon projects; Volkswagen Foundation; Europe for Citizens Programme; FP4, FP5, FP7; PRIN; Jean Monnet; Research Grant Jubilaumsfonds, ONB).

She has published in, among others, the following peer-reviewed journals: Social Movement Studies, EJPR, Mobilization, Acta Politica, West European Politics, Government and Opposition, European Union Politics, South European Society and Politics, RISP; & for the following publishers: Oxford University Press, Ashgate, Palgrave, Routledge.

Her main research agenda for the coming years is to investigate the transnationalisation and diffusion of reactionary contention (radical right movements, anti-gender, etc.). In doing so, she will seek to develop an analytical framework based on the notion of transnationalism and mechanisms that integrates social movement studies and party politics.

Most recent publications:

  • Caiani, M, Susasnzky, P. & Saridakis, N. (2024), “Radical Right and Anti-Vax Protests Between Movements and Parties: a Comparative Study”, Acta Politica, DOI:10.1057/s41269-024-00339-5.
  • Caiani M., Carlotti, B., Lovec, M., Wincławska, M., Kočan, F. and Balcer, A. (2024) “Narratives and Euroscepticism in the Western Balkans and the EU”, Routledge
  • Caiani, M & Eren, B. (2023), “A European Antipopulist Movement? The emergence and diffusion of the Italian Sardines and Finnish Herrings”, Mobilization: An International Quarterly, 28 (3): 375–395.
  • Manuela Caiani & Balša Lubarda (2023) “Conditional environmentalism of right-wing populism in power: ideology and/or opportunities?”, Environmental Politics, DOI: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09644016.2023.2242749
  • Caiani, M. (2023). “Framing and social movements”. Discourse Studies, 25(2), 195–209.
  • Caiani, M. & Padoan, E. (2023), “Populism and (Pop) Music”, Palgrave.
  • Caiani, M. & Weisskircher, M. (2022), “Anti-Nationalist Europeans and Pro-European Nativists on the Streets: Visions of Europe from the Left to the Far Right”, Social Movement Studies, 21:1-2, 216-233
  • Caiani, M. (2022) “Movements and Parties: An introduction”, PACO Participation and Conflict, Vol.15, no 3,  http://siba-ese.unisalento.it/index.php/paco/article/view/26475
  • Manuela Caiani and L. Parenti, (2013) European and American Extreme Right Groups and the Internet, Ashgate.
  • Manuela Caiani, D. della Porta and C. Wagemann (2012), Mobilizing on the Extreme Right, Oxford University Press.

Funded Projects:

  • 2025-2028 TRANS4DEMO ‘Contentious Politics and Democratic Renewal in Sustainability Transitions’, HORIZON-CL2-2024-DEMOCRACY-01-01, Principal investigator.
  • 2023-2026 CIDAPE  ‘Climate, Inequality, and Democratic Action: The Force of Political Emotions’,   HORIZON-CL2-2023-DEMOCRACY-01-04, Principal investigator.
  • 2022-2025 AUTHLIB ‘Neo –Authoritarianisms in Europe and the liberal democratic response’,   Horizon 2021 (HORIZON-CL2-2021-DEMOCRACY-01-01), Principal investigator.
  • 2022-2025 GOLDSTEIN – Debunking Political Uses of Denialisms and Conspiracy Theories in EU, Jean Monnet Programme/Module, partner
  • 2022-2024 ‘Democratic Challenges, Social sustainability and Gender inequalities’, Programma congiunto PRO3 (DM n. 289/2021), Principal investigator/project coordinator.
  • 2021-2022 ‘Tackling illiberal narratives and Euroscepticism from below’, Europe for Citizens Program (number: 625696-CITIZ-1-2020-1-MK-CITIZ-CIV), Principal investigator.
  • 2019-2021 ‘Populism and Popular Music in Europe’, Volkswagen Stiftung (n. No A126160), PI.
  • 2018-2020 ‘The consequences of Populism in Power’, SNS Research Grant, Project Coordinator
  • 2016-2019, PRIN (Italian Research Ministry Funds) Project on “Politics e Policy in Europa in tempo di crisi: Cause e Conseguenze”, PI.
  • 2016 – 2018 SNS Research Grant, SNS, “Right-Wing Political Radicalization Using the Internet in Eastern and Central Europe”, PI.
  • 8. 2010 – 2012 Research Grant Jubilaumsfonds, Oesterreichische National Bank,  “The Dark Side of the Web European and American Extreme Right Groups and online Politics” (n. 14035), Project Coordinator, IHS, Wien.

Research interests and Phd Supervision:

Prof. Caiani  is open to supervising empirically-oriented research in areas related to:

  • Social Movements and Europeanization/Transnationalization
  • Regressive social movements (including anti gender)
  • Far Right Politics
  • Extremism online
  • Movement-parties
  • Populism
  • Comparative politics
  • Qualitative Methods of social research (focus groups, visual and frame analysis, qualitative interviews, social network analysis, protest event analysis, etc.).

Current (phd) Supervisees:

  • Alexsandr Shishov (European Identities of the radical right)
  • Nathasha Aidoo (Urban Feminism)
  • Beatrice Carella (Left wing populism in power)
  • Nicolò Pennucci (Anti populist social movements)
  • Damiano Kerma (with Unipi) (Music and grassroots populist mobilization)
  • Ivan Tranfic (Anti-gender social movements)
  • Aida Kapetanovic (Collective identity in divided societies)
  • Bathuan Eren (Diffusion of mobilization)
  • Damla.Keskekci (The transnationalization of radical right social movements)
  • Saridakis Nikolaos (with Panteion Univ.) (Radical right protest and Corona)
  • Bucci Gianmarco (Movement-parties)
  • Deniz Aktan (Sport and political participation)
  •  Maximilian Weckermann (with WZB) (Imagined future of the far right)
  • Masika Vaninetti (East African Community and Social networks)
  • Lorenzo Fruganti (counter terrorism policies, coalitions and networks)
  • Eduardo GONCALVES (left behind and collective re-mobilizations)
  • Ghadir Abumiddain (gender and nation in divided societies)

Research interests: europeanization, extreme right politics, radical internet politics, and qualitative research methods



Le basi istituzionali di un panico morale

Attraverso una lunga rassegna di casi concreti, Donatella Della Porta, direttrice di Cosmos, descrive il processo per cui la lotta istituzionale all'antisemitismo in Germania, inizialmente promossa dalla società civile progressista, si è trasformata nella costruzione di un apparato statale e di una struttura di potere ufficiale come strumento di razzializzazione e repressione.


The Far-right and conspiraciy theories from Covid to the European elections

Donatella Della Porta, Cosmos Lab director, has researched on “Regressive movements in time of emergency” using the case of protests against anti contagion measures. In this case as in many others (from the conservative “anti gender”  European farmers) protesters pictured themselves as an abused minority of powerless victims fighting against some hidden and organized power. This frame seems to be a version of those being used by populist (mainly far-right) parties against Europe. We asked Della Porta to explain why and how conspiracy theories and this kind of posturing is keen to fall for the political offer of rightwing parties.


Social movements, Coronavirus and the right to healthcare

The 2020 pandemic has brought renewed focus on public healthcare and many mobilizations both on healthcare systems and vaccine patents. What are the peculiarities of right to healthcare movements? A talk with Cosmos Lab member Stella Christou


Far right movements and the European elections

Intersections and differences among far right politica Europan parties and movments, transatlantic exchanges, the role of mobilizations at the grassroots level. An interview with political scientist Andrea Pirro


An open letter on freedom of expression and protest on Palestine by the European social movement studies community

As social movement scholars we express strong concerns about the growing trend to restrict the right of expression, critique, and protest in several countries in Europe. Signed by research centres, journals and standing groups.


CFP: Feminism as a method - Feminist Epistemologies, Methodologies and Methods in Social Sciences

International Conference 14-15 November 2024 Anastasia Barone, Giada Bonu Rosenkranz and Donatella della Porta (Scuola Normale Superiore)


Journal Article - 2023

Resisting right-wing populism in power: a comparative analysis of the Facebook activities of social movements in Italy and the UK

Niccolò Pennucci
This paper aims to present a comparative study of the civil society reaction to right-wing populism in power through social media, by looking at cases in Italy and the United Kingdom.

Journal Article - 2023

Emotions in Action: the Role of Emotions in Refugee Solidarity Activism

Chiara Milan
This article investigates the different types of emotions that result from participation in refugee solidarity activism, investigating how they change over time and to what extent they explain why individuals remain involved in action in spite of unfavorable circumstances.

Journal Article - 2023

‘Love is over, this is going to be Turkey!’: cathartic resonance between the June 2013 protests in Turkey and Brazil

Batuhan Eren
This study addresses the question of why and how a protest can inspire individuals in distant countries. Taking the June 2013 protests in Turkey and Brazil as cases, it investigates the reasons why the Turkish protests were framed as one of the inspirational benchmarks by some Brazilian protesters.

Journal Article - 2023

Mutual aid and solidarity politics in times of emergency: direct social action and temporality in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic

Lorenzo Zamponi
From the spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing measures introduced created a series of social problems and needs that were partially addressed in Italy as well as in other countries by grassroots mutual aid initiatives. While many of these initiatives were strongly rooted in the Italian social movement and civil society landscape and the choice to engage in mutual aid activities was the result of long years of reflection and planning, the article shows how strongly the temporality of emergency affected the nature of these initiatives, their development and their outcomes, in particular with regard to the extraordinary number of people who volunteered and their relationship with politicisation processes.

Monograph - 2023

Populism and (Pop) Music

Manuela Caiani, Enrico Padoan
The book provides a detailed account of the links between production of popular culture to the rise of populism and contributes to studies on populism and popular culture in Italy, using a comparative approach and a cultural sociology perspective

Monograph - 2022

Labour conflicts in the digital age

Donatella della Porta, Riccardo Emilio Chesta, Lorenzo Cini
From Deliveroo to Amazon, digital platforms have drastically transformed the way we work. But how are these transformations being received and challenged by workers? This book provides a radical interpretation of the changing nature of worker movements in the digital age, developing an invaluable approach that combines social movement studies and industrial relations. Using case studies taken from Europe and North America, it offers a comparative perspective on the mobilizing trajectories of different platform workers and their distinct organizational forms and action repertoires.

Monograph - 2022

Resisting the Backlash: Street Protest in Italy

Donatella della Porta, Niccolò Bertuzzi, Daniela Chironi, Chiara Milan, Martín Portos & Lorenzo Zamponi
Drawing interview material, together with extensive data from the authors’ original social movement database, this book examines the development of social movements in resistance to perceived political "regression" and a growing right-wing backlash.

Journal Article - 2021

Learning from Democratic Practices: New Perspectives in Institutional Design

Andrea Felicetti
Drawing from literature on democratic practices in social movements and democratic innovations, the article illustrates three ways to advance institutional design in the wake of the systemic turn.

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 - 2021

Populism between voting and non-electoral participation

Andrea Pirro & Martín Portos
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.