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Session Overview
RS08_02: Social movements and the sociology of engagements
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Veikko Eranti, Tampere University
Session Chair: Eeva Kristiina Luhtakallio, University of Tampere
Location: GM.331
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road

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Plural Engagements and Social Movement Studies: Theoretical Reflections and Post-Socialist Cases

Mischa Gabowitsch

Einstein Forum, Germany

Social movement studies are currently at a critical juncture. The dominance of the political process school is on the wane, and attempts are being made to reconstruct the field based on contributions from a range of theoretical perspectives and, most importantly, case studies from non-Western contexts. This paper outlines the contribution that the sociology of regimes of engagements can make to renewing social movement studies. The theoretical part reviews the state of the field, then discusses how a pragmatic approach can provide a useful framework to approach objects of study that contentious politics scholars often have difficulty accounting for, such as the diversity of regimes of engagement (strategic, critical, familar and exploratory) in protest and the attendant emotional regimes.

The empirical part discusses case studies of unconventional social movements from a post-socialist context, illustrating different modes of articulating plural regimes of engagement within the same situation. Examples are drawn from a study of protests against electoral fraud in Russia in 2011-13 and from a multi-year study of transnational commemorative movements that continue and transform the Soviet tradition of celebrating victory in World War II.

Building Translocal Commons: Climate Justice Networks in Turkey and Germany

Hande Paker

Bahçeşehir University, Turkey

How are borders, both geographical and social, transcended, negotiated and re-constructed to create common spaces that produce transformation? This paper focuses on local and transnational environmental spaces of action to analyze how civil society actors build commons around climate change. Ecological issues can be analyzed from the perspective of commons, which, applied more freely, has implications for the construction of a common public sphere. The analysis of encounters in and around the commons, simultaneously unifying and contested, opens itself to more general questions of democratic participation that makes co-existence possible, which has increasingly become precarious in the current neoliberal and populist ‘zeitgeist’.

The paper argues that the conditions of building democratic commons need to be expounded by taking into account the specific mechanisms at the local and transnational levels, which make possible the forging of a common ground. Drawing on research on climate networks in Turkey and Germany, I comparatively analyze environmental civil society actors to delineate the extent and nature of their participation in the transnational public sphere built around climate change, identify limits presented by their national political contexts, and explore possibilities for building commons around climate protection, e.g. a shared anti-coal focus and commitment to climate justice.

The interactions, frames, inherent conflicts and effectiveness of climate networks are identified through in-depth interviews with representatives of transnational, national, and local environmental organizations in Turkey and Germany, as well as participatory observation at COP21 and Breakfree events in Turkey.

Historical Background of the Gezi Protests and the Justice and Development Party's Policies

Tülay Yılmaz

Tampere University, Finland

Social protests and movements have unpredictable positive or negative impacts over societies and states. They might, on the one, enable democracy to rise, create a more livable and more egalitarian milieu, on the other hand, cause to emergence of undemocratic and authoritarian regimes.

The Gezi movements initiated by the actions of a few environmentally sensitive activists in May, 2013 still maintains its importance in terms of the politics and society in Turkey. In my PhD research, I study the Gezi movement as contentious politics, deploying the conceptual tools of political opportunity structure and of the effects of social movements.

This presentation explores the historical background of the movement and the government (AKP- Justice and Development Party) actions, and furthermore, takes steps towards policy analysis of the current government. It is immensely important not to perceive the Gezi protests as the only social protests wave during the current government period. Before the emergence of the Gezi protest, there were many social protests criticizing the government's worker, environment, neoliberal policies and its conservative policies. A number of policies have been put into effect, particularly on workers, nature and the secular lifestyle, that have led to the annihilation of the nature and the elimination of workers' rights and restriction on the secular life and freedom. However, the Gezi protests have formed the peak point of these actions. In order to better understand, the political context, the consequences and the effects of the Gezi movement on the democracy and the current situation of Turkey, I look at policies and the political turn of the government in the period after the Gezi protests.

The Russian “Vatniki” And The French “Yellow Vests”: An Attempt To Understand The We-Lower Class People

Karine Clément

Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), France

Beyond the obvious differences in the context and environment of their living, the “invisible people” in Russia and in France have much in common beyond their invisibility in the public sphere. As shown by the recent “Gilets Jaunes” movement in France and the social criticism from below noticed in recent fieldworks in Russia, it seems that the “invisible” or socially despised/ignored layers of the society are not ready anymore to quietly play the game of the consenting governed. In the paper, I argue that they are sketching a new type of politics which is directed against institutional politics and those at the top of the institutional politics, while asserting a new horizon of commonality in both meanings of sharing something common and belonging to the common people (populos). In other words, I propose to study the process of populization, which means the process by which people from the lower classes imagine themselves as sharing the same social experience to which they recover sensitive connections and which they requalify and valuate through close interactions, free talks and common practices or actions.

The study relies on data from two field studies. One has been conducted in different Russian regions in 2016-2018, while studying ordinary nationalism, and provides information from 237 in-depth interviews with people of different socio-demographic profiles. The second comes from an on-going field research on the Gilets jaunes, mostly through informal interviews and observations. As astonishing as it can appear, the Gilets jaunes movement resonates very much, from my perspective, with what I have seen and heard in Russia among the lower-class people (what I label “vatniki” for the strength of the comparison).

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