A perspective for 2014-2018

A perspective for RC 47 2014-2018

Presented at the RC 47 general assembly in Yokohama, July 2014

Insightful perspectives on social movements

Since the last ISA congress in 2010, there has been a wide wave of social movements all over the world and an unprecedented interest for social movement studies. Bringing together social scientists from all continents, the ISA Research Committee 47 provides a unique platform to share and develop our perspectives on and analyses of these current, recent and past social movements, as much the ones who strike mainstream media headlines as those who discreetly transform politics or daily life.

The RC 47 was founded with the conviction that the study of social movements provides elements for a better understanding of both specific social actors and society as a whole. As Melucci (1996:28) stated it, social movements “show glimpses of possible futures, and are, in some respects, the vehicles of realization of these very futures”. Therefore, RC 47 has thus a particular interest in connecting the sociology of social movements with general sociology (Touraine), developing approaches that avoid the traps of both “professional” sociologists’ hyper-specialization (Burawoy) and of movements’ organic intellectuals.

Since its beginning, RC 47 has also paid a particular attention to cultural approaches of social movements and social transformations, developing or referring to concepts such as identity, meanings, emotions, cultural change, lifestyle change, experience, subjectivity, and personal dimensions of activism. Other RC 47 members have connected social movement studies and general sociology with approaches based on social classes or transnational networks. The coexistence of these multiple approaches makes the RC 47 an open and lively arena of exchange. The RC 47 aims at fostering an open and constructive dialogue among different perspectives, coming from the South and from the North of the planet. A better gender and continental/regional balance at the main panels is particularly important in this perspective.

To “think global”, in the sense proposed by Michel Wieviorka and Craig Calhoun, is another core feature of the RC 47. It requires analysing social movements, society and social transformations both beyond national and regional borders, and from the scale of the individual subject to the planet. The challenge is to avoid both methodological nationalism (Beck) and methodological globalism by combining global issues with multi-site empirical fieldwork research. Young sociologists, including PhD students, have a major role to play in dealing with this challenge bringing strong empirical contributions and fresh analytical perspectives.

We aim at developing research and analyses beyond borders and to fully include sociologists from all regions of the world. Therefore, we need to pay a special attention in including scholars from Asia and from the Global South, and particularly from countries where social sciences have limited resources and access to international meetings and publications. To promote a better integration of sociologists from the global South and a more global and inclusive dialogue is RC 47 main challenge and could be its main contribution to social movement studies.

A democratic, accountable, more decentralized and convivial RC

As social movement scholar, we all particularly value internal democracy and the consistency between the value we promote (horizontality, openness, transparency, democracy) and the way we act.

More generally, we would also like to impulse a more decentralize way of working. The RC 47 aims at supporting its members’ initiatives whenever these initiatives contribute to an international, open and insightful perspective on social movements. In this perspective, the role of the chair and of the board of the RC is to promote and coordinate initiatives by RC 47 members, whether they are members of the board or not. In addition of financial support when it is possible, the RC 47 may provide support by promoting and diffusing initiatives, co-organizing conferences or contributing to publish its result. A concrete example of such a support is the fact that the RC 47 co-organizes a conference, which may help participants who apply at their national research agency to get a grant to travel to that conference.

The decentralization dynamic will also result in the creation of RC 47 working groups on specific topics (e.g. social movements and digital cultures, social classes and social movements, far right and reactionary movements, labour movements and social movements).

Within the new project we would also like to develop the articulation of the RC 47 with national and regional research committees on social movements. Various national and regional sociological associations have very lively committees on social movements (e.g. ASA, LASA, French Sociological Association, the new Japanese association …). To impulse new collaborations with these research committees would multiply the diffusion of our initiatives and allow for a better combination of national and global perspectives on social movements. We will notably foster collaboration during national and international workshops and conferences

RC 47 convivial atmosphere is important not only because it is pleasant, but also because it is a condition of a productive work together, in a space where critical reading of each other’s work leads to constructive criticisms rather than to personal criticisms. It should thus be open to debate, disagreements and critical discussion, which will help each of the participants to complement and improve her/his perspective. The convivial aspect is particularly important for newcomers and PhD students, who may feel isolated at their first participation at an ISA conference. At the 2014 conference in Yokohama, Dai Nomia’s initiatives (a pre-conference and a RC 47 party) will allow RC 47 members to get to know each other and start informal conversations and new collaborations. Similar initiatives will be organized at future meetings.

RC 47 will use social media to strengthen internal communication and the diffusion of information, for example with #RC47, a social media page and a common affiliation on Academia.edu. It will be used to announce events and publications, but also to share questions (e.g. missing bibliography on a specific point, or on social movement in a specific country).  The newsletter and mailing list also need a new impetus to make RC 47 a lively exchange and information network. In addition of visio-conferences, some RC 47 session could be recorded, streamed and uploaded on a Youtube channel to make it easily available on a wider audience, and notably to people from the global south who can’t afford the travel.  More broadly, we intend to set up a hub around RC 47, to exchange information, publications, teaching materials…

RC 47 Conferences and meetings

Regular conferences are an indispensable tool to foster strong and convivial collaborations in an international network. For all these conference, RC 47 conferences and seminar should focus more on quality of the contributions and of the discussion than on the number of participants. It may notably be reached by assigning a discussant to each panel at conferences and congresses. It will ensure that each participant will go back with a couple of good questions and concrete proposals to improve her/his paper.

We would like to organize four kinds of meetings.

a.     An annual RC 47 conference

ü  The 2016 meeting will take place at the ISA Forum, in Vienna.

ü  There will be RC 47 annual meetings in 2015 and 2017, hopefully in Latin America, Africa or South or East Asia.

b.    Regional and thematic meetings

As stated above, the RC 47 will support its members’ initiative to organize regional or international conferences, whether on specific topics, or as regional/continental encounters. While the RC 47 potential financial contribution is limited, its support may help conference organizers and participants in their applications for funding to organize the conference or to travel to the conference place. RC 47 support may also help finding a publisher for the conference papers.

Two “decentralized meetings” could take place at the World Social Forums in Tunis (2015) and Quebec (2016). In March 2013, the RC 47 co-organized a session on youth activism with the Finnish Research Network on Youth. It gathered 5 speakers from Africa and Europe and over 150 participants, including Immanuel Wallerstein. The meeting was particularly insightful and it would be great to repeat such an experience.

c.     A global online seminar

We plan to organize a visio-conference seminar, with 3 to 5 sessions a year, with leading scholars who would be discussed by younger researchers from another country or continent. If people from other universities are willing to join, it could become a global seminar on social movement.


To diffuse the publications and projects of each of the members and to provide them with way to publish the outcome of their research in international journals or publishing houses is a major objective of the RC. While books, journal special issues and articles on social movements have multiplied since 2011, RC 47 may become far more active in fostering collective publications and promoting its members publications.

–        The ISA journals offer a great platform for set of articles and post-2010 movements a great deal of potential contributions to Current Sociology or International Sociology.

–        Various candidates to the new boards have good contact with people in charge of ISA publications. Breno Bringel has edited a volume on “Global Modernity and Social Protests” to be published in the ISA collection at Sage. This publisher is willing to publish other volumes on recent social movements.

–        Paolo Gerbaudo and Geoffrey Pleyers are preparing two special issues of the Journal of Communication Studies and the Journal of International Relations and Development based on the contributions to their panels at the 2014 ISA congress. Similar outcomes may be more systematically promoted.

–        To assign a discussant to each panel at future encounters will improve the quality of the papers and ease the publication process.

–        Papers presented at the conference should be gathered in an online publication, following the example of the RC 48. It allows participants to access each other works before the meeting and constitute a first publication of a paper, which is particularly important for young researchers.

 New Project: Open Democracy

While publishing in scholar journals and books is indispensable, as social movement scholar we also aim at contributing to a quality public debate on major issues. The English website “Open Democracy” has been one of the most successful initiatives in providing a global platform for progressive and quality contributions. The articles they published are very well diffused, and most of them get reproduced and translated by a wide range of progressive websites.

They are willing to publish once a week a text provided by the RC 47 on social movements and democracy, as well as 7 articles in a row during a week that would launch that new section. This new editorial project would require gathering a small RC 47 editorial team, gathering one representative by continent/region with some fluency in English (or assistant that may help). Each one would have to select one text a month and 2 texts a year to be included in the publication weeks. The editorial team would be renewed every year, in order to give diversify the contributions.

New Cultural Frontiers

Thanks to Emanuele Toscano’s hard work, “New Cultural Frontiers” has become a fantastic tool for the RC 47. It provides young researchers with a space to publish and diffuse their work and has notably been used to publish sets of articles presented at international workshops. Eiji Hamanishi prepares a new volume on anti-nuclear movements.

Now that it is solidly established, NCF needs a new team of young researchers that will both pursue and renew its project and its purposes, able to cope with the challenges of a regular publications and a new online diffusion policy. NCF clearly deserves to be financially supported by the RC 47.

Its diffusion will be strengthen thanks to the collaboration with the online platform for scholar journal “Revues.org”, which require a publication plan for the next couple of years.

A platform for international research project

Finally, in addition of these classic missions of any RC, we have to find innovative ways to promote collective applications to international research grants among our members.

An increasing number of research funding applications require a network of international researchers. It is particularly the case at the European level, but also in Latin America.

RC 47 working groups will provide new ways to connect people who work on similar topics and support their joint application to international research agencies and foundations.

International scholars who have signed and supported the RC 47 project (by July 15th 2014):

Breno Bringel, IESP, State University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil & Spain.

Carlos Rea Rodriguez, University of Nayarit, Mexico

Christoph Haug, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Daniele Di Nunzio, IRES, Rome

Deborah Delgado, Catholic University of Peru

Eiji Hamanishi,Notre-Dame Seishin University, Japan

Emanuele Toscano, University G. Marconi, Rome

Emiliano Treré, Autonomous University of Queretaro, Mexico

Farhad Khosrokhavar, CADIS/EHESS.

Guadalupe Olivier, Universidad Nacional Pedagógica, México.

Hakan Thörn, University of Gothenburg

Jeff Goodwin, New York University, USA

Jim Jasper, City University New York

Kevin McDonald, Middlesex University, London

Lev Luis Grinberg, Tel Aviv University, Israel

Liliana Galindo, University of Grenoble, Colombia & France

Lucia Ratih Kusumadewi, University of Indonesia

Manuel Antonio Garretón, Universidad Nacional de Chile

Maria da Gloria Gohn, State University of Campinas

Pascale Dufour, Université de Montréal

Paulo Henrique Martins, President of the Latin American Studies Association

Priska Daphi, University of Frankfurt (Main), Germany

Renata Campos Motta, Freie Universität Berlin, Brazil & Germany

Sergio Tamayo, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico

Sergio Zermeño, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México