New Directions in the Study of Social Movements: From Causal Explanations to Attribution Processes

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Luca TRATSCHIN, University of Lucerne, Switzerland
In my talk, I would like to address a type of research question that has been neglected by sociological research on social movements. While social scientific research on social movements typically focuses on explaining the emergence of contentious performances of social movements through different causal models (e.g. structural strain, resource mobilization, political process, collective identity, collective action frames) it hasn’t paid much attention to the processes through which performances like demonstrations, sit-ins or strike are being attributed to specific social movements. I will suggest that the study of attribution processes offers new insights into dynamics of social movements which can complement causal accounts.

After showing why the attribution of protest is a salient question, I will introduce a conceptualization of attribution processes which distinguishes between protest offers and protest reception. Protest offers are performances such as demonstrations, sit-ins, rallies which claim to be considered as protests of a specific social movement. Such claims can be evaluated by two types of protest reception: Validating attribution and attribution based on the observation of differences between protests. The former takes the attribution of demonstrations to a specific social movement as granted, while the latter gives an account that explains, why a certain protest can be understood as a contentious performance of a specific social movement. I will illustrate my theoretical account with examples from the occupy movement.