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Session Overview
RN25_03: Contentious and electoral politics
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Katerina Vrablikova, University of Bath
Location: GM.330
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road

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Conflict and Collaboration in Contentious Events: The Case of the 1-O in Catalonia

Ferran Giménez, Hans Jonas Gunzelmann

Barcelona University, Spain

Internal conflict frequently divides social movements into several groups and factions. However, their ability to promote social change depends, among other things, on whether they are capable of sharing and synchronizing goals and means of collective action. This paper represents an empirical analysis of the Referendum on Catalan Independence held on October 1, 2017 (1-O) as an exceptional case of collaboration. In this moment of aperture towards unforeseen forms of contention, various social actors beyond the independentist sector aligned to organize and guarantee the vote on Catalan self-determination. This includes numerous grassroots groups, large organizations such as ANC and Òmnium Cultural, but also the independentist political parties and the Catalan government.

Our hypothesis is that this exceptional case of collaboration is an outcome of a discursive and cognitive transition from the master frame of the “right to decide“ towards an adversarial framing of the Spanish state as the enemy. This discursive construction is intrinsically linked to chain of repressive events in the weeks prior to the 1-O as well as on the same day of the referendum. Moreover, through the intervention of Spanish police in Catalan autonomous institutions, the role of institutional politics diminishes, while the contentious sphere gains weight in this period. Thus, we identify two central elements: the “right to decide” as a normative foundation, determined by the referendum, and the repression of the Spanish state as an external antagonism. Once the referendum is held, conflict among movement actors reappears as interpretations of the right to decide and state repression become ambiguous. Field work was conducted between september and december 2017,a period of intense contention under a qualitative-ethnographic approach.

Extra-Territorial Activism By Syrian Refugees In Europe: Exploring Intersections Between Contentious Acts And Electoral Politics

Tasneem Sharkawi

Lancaster University, United Kingdom

With the violent developments of the situation in Syria during the past eight years and the ensuing forced migration, Syrian activism has a visible presence in several European capitals. Many young Syrian refugees in Europe are actively involved in organizing and mobilizing against the Syrian regime. This paper is based on an ethnographic account of the collective action of two groups of young Syrian refugees, one in Britain and another in Germany, tracing their networked activities with young Syrian activists based in Turkey. The paper investigates the subjects, objects, and sites of contention for these young activists through analyzing the rights claims they make and tactics they employ in constituting themselves as political players in their European host communities. I combine mobile and digital ethnography to examine research materials from 1) thick descriptions from field notes 2) long intensive interviews, and 3) social media artifacts.

I adopt a contentious politics perspective to social movements to discuss the spatial dynamics of collective and direct action organized extraterritorially by these Syrian activists who pressure the public opinion and voters in host countries to demand a different foreign policy towards the Syrian regime. I explain how these activists use contentious acts to trigger a change in electoral politics in their host countries highlighting intersections between extraterritorial activism contentious politics, and electoral politics.

This paper contributes to a deeper understanding of the less explored aspects of the refugee resettlement experience which can shed light on possibilities of political participation of young refugees in Europe.

The Politics of Alliance in Farmers Movement in India

Simin Fadaee

University of Manchester, United Kingdom

On the 30th November 2018 tens of thousands of Indian farmers marched to the parliament and demanded a special session to discuss the deepening agrarian crisis which began over twenty years ago. While climate change and its effects on Indian agriculture has played a role, activists and opponents of the government’s agricultural policies see the Green Revolution and the transformation of Indian agriculture into large scale corporate industrial agriculture as the main reason behind India’s agricultural crisis. The protest march to the parliament was only the latest in a series of protest marches which have been organised by an umbrella group of over two hundred farmers organisations from all over India within the past year. Moreover, for the first time an alliance of different activist groups, oppositional political parties and students has cohered to support the farmers and their cause. Despite its political, empirical and theoretical significance, research on processes and mechanisms of the formation of alliances across classes, movements, organisations and political parties has gained scant attention in social movement studies. Based on original research this paper reflects on dynamics and implications of alliance building in contemporary farmers movement in India.

The Movement-Elite Alliance After The Great Recession: The Case Of The Icelandic Constitutional Reform Movement

Jun Shiota

Kobe University, Japan

In Iceland, the financial crisis of 2008 led to the simultaneous rise of a progressive left-wing government and a social movement for constitutional reform. While the left-wing political elites and the movement were initially collaborating among each other, the failure of the left-wing government to implement constitutional reforms turned them into adversaries for the social movement activists. This paper considers the above process as an example of the formation and dissolution of movement-elite alliances. Although previous research has considered elite allies as crucial for social movement success, the paper argues that the movement’s mistrust for political elites produced strategic dilemmas that ultimately influenced the decision to break with the institutional partner. This argument is tested by interviews with both activists and politicians. The paper thereby adds to the study of movement-elite alliances more broadly, and to the general study of social movements in the wake of the financial crisis.

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