Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RN25_04: Political violence and social movements
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
6:00pm - 7:30pm

Session Chair: Ayse Nal Akcay, University of Washington, Seattle
Location: GM.330
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road

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Securitized Volunteerism and Neo Nationalism in Israel's Rural Periphery

Nir Gazit1, Erella Grassiani2

1Ruppin Academic Center; 2University of Amsterdam

Hashomer Hachadash (The New Guardian) movement claims to fill a gap of security, and moral education in the Israeli landscape that in the words of the organization ‘has forgotten its Zionist roots’. It frames itself as a bottom up organization that brings together people (mostly Jews) who feel connected to the land of Israel and want to protect it against an often-unnamed enemy. The movment, which was founded by a farmer’s son and a small group of friends, has expanded into a conglomerate that provides free security services and labor assistance to farmers and settlers in the Israeli frontier. It also organizes countless educational and cultural activities with schools, youth movements, and the private sector, which combine civilian and military themes and promote a neo-national (neo-Zionist) agenda. Today, ten years after its establishment, the organization includes tens of thousands of activists and volunteers.

Although rooted in a particular socio-political context, we believe that this case demonstrates how militarism may re-emanate in civil society, in the margins of the state, with almost no influence from military actors. Ethos and practices of voluntarism play an important role in this process as they enable the organization to nurture a civilianized and populist form of militarism and neo-nationalism, outside the monopoly of formal governmental institutions. It further helps it to attract various audiences. As such it serves as a platform for new social new alignments between social sectors and groups in Israeli society.

Opportunity/threat Spirals, Anti-Immigration Protest, and Violence: Observations from Four Swedish towns.

Måns Robert Lundstedt

Scuola Normale Superiore, Firenze

The European ’refugee crisis’ of 2015 and 2016 was a composite process consisting of increasing migration flows, contention and reform of domestic and European border policies, and popular mobilization. One particularly striking component of the crisis was the diffusion of arson and bomb attacks against asylum shelters. In the Swedish case, roughly 20 facilities, in as many towns, were attacked during the peak of violence between October and December 2015. While the perpetrators remain unknown, attacks were most often precipitated by local collective action against the accommodation of refugees. Importantly, however, mobilization also happened in places where no violence occurred. Comparing violent and nonviolent trajectories, this paper asks what locally specific factors contributed to escalation of mobilization into violence. This paper argues that the occurrence of violence should not be explained by the emergence of collective action per se, but by the gradual development and deployment of frames that combine rising levels of threat with the closure of opportunities for nonviolent action, i.e. opportunity/threat spirals. In order to test this argument, the paper uses frame analysis of statements made in local print media and on radical right wing web sites by opponents to the accommodation of refugees in four Swedish towns, combined with retrospective interviews with opponents and proponents of reception.

Local Conditions and Online Media Context for Anti-Immigrant Violence in the 2010s: An Analysis of Arson Attacks against Asylum Housing Facilities in Sweden

Mattias Wahlström, Hans Ekbrand, Anton Törnberg

University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Similar to several other countries, Sweden has faced an upsurge in radical right mobilization in the 2010s, both visible in terms of parliamentary successes of the Sweden Democrat party as well as extraparliamentary activities, including political violence. One expression of the latter is arson attacks against asylum housing facilities, the number of which rose in late 2015 and 2016, in connection with the contemporary wave of immigrants to Europe. Among influential explanations for this dispersed and sometimes disorganized type of political violence one finds social movement theories including assertions about the impact of political and discursive opportunities for the incidence of arson attacks. However, there is still a lack of scientific consensus about the relative (and combined) importance of various local and national level explanatory factors. The present study aims to clarify the role of some of these factors by investigating prominent pathways of causal conditions that together appear to lead to attacks. We conduct a qualitative comparative analysis of Swedish municipalities where asylum housing arson attacks have or have not occurred during the time period between 2011-2018. Particular attention is paid to the role played by social media in instigating and/or facilitating political violence.

The Heterogeneous Impact of Threatening Events on Violence during the German Refugee Crisis

Arun Lorenz Frey

University of Oxford, United Kingdom

While social movement literature on intergroup conflict has frequently examined the role of structural determinants to establish which local conditions lead to ethnic violence, less attention has been placed on the temporal dimension of such violence. A narrow focus on where, not when, violence occurs neglects substantial fluctuations in hostility over time and depicts conflict as overly static. This paper investigates anti-immigrant violence in Germany between 2014 and 2016, a period of heightened immigration to the country, and focuses on the role of events in inciting violence. The study reports three findings: Firstly, there is considerable heterogeneity in events’ effects on violence: after controlling for structural determinants, contagion dynamics, seasonal fluctuations and media salience, the 2015 New Year’s Eve sexual assaults (NYE) stands out among all threatening events in Germany, dramatically increasing subsequent attacks. Comparing this increase to the more moderate impact of domestic terrorist attacks indicates that discrepancies in events’ effects seem not to be related to straightforward measures of severity, but to more complex mobilisation dynamics. Secondly, events are able to not only influence the amount, but also the very distribution of violence. Following the NYE event, attacks increased disproportionately in previously less hostile regions, suggesting that nationwide hostility temporarily trumped the importance of pre-existing local conditions in predicting anti-immigrant violence. Finally, the increase in attacks consisted largely of minor crimes, while more extreme forms of violence were less affected. Extreme crimes and their offenders may be less susceptible to situational influences than minor delinquencies.