New Directions for Social Movement Studies?

19th Sep 2011 | By | Category: 2011 Aberdeen, Scotland, Conferences, Other International Conferences


NUI Maynooth, Aberdeen – Scotland

26th November 2011

deadline 1st October 2011

conference themes and details at or from Centre for Politics, Power and Society, Dept. of Sociology, NUIM & “Critical Political Thought, Activism and Alternative Futures” research cluster



We invite papers addressing one or more of the areas below, but we are also open to other research agendas which you feel deserve more attention. The conference is open to participants from any academic discipline as well as to researchers working within social movements, and welcomes papers relating to movements outside or beyond Ireland as well as those engaging with the Irish situation.

1) Politics, theory and method

What are the purposes of social movement research? How do theories and methods interact? What relationships (should) exist between researchers and movements?  What kinds of knowledge do social movements produce? What theories are generated and used by movement activists? Does movement research have anything useful to say to movements?

2) What are “social movements” anyway?

How can we understand “movement” not just as a type of semi-formal organising, but in ways that allow “social movements” to include micro-level resistance at one end or indeed revolution at the other? How do we relate understandings of social movements in the 19th or early 20th century as trying to create or transform states and institutions to contemporary assumptions about movements as accepting given structures? How can we say something useful about where the
boundaries of one movement end and another begin? How do societies change through collective action, and how can we know?

3) Critical cultural analysis

How do past struggles and inherited traditions shape social movements today? How can we integrate discourse, language and culture into the analysis of social movements? How are movements and their discourses gendered, classed and racialised? What is the importance of emotion and affect; trauma, stress and sustainability in shaping movement dynamics and outcomes? And how can social movement research transform cultural and literary studies which often ask these questions without
asking after the practicalities of organising, strategy and struggle?

4) Understanding social movements in Ireland

Do Irish movements really operate in a context like the US and UK, or should we be looking to movements in Mediterranean societies or Latin America for comparisons and concepts? What kind of “movement society” is Ireland in international comparison – peripheral, post-colonial, conservative? How does the role of (nationalist, Catholic, farmers’, labour) movements in creating the state enable and constrain contemporary movements? What does the Irish case tell us about movements more broadly and how can it help us understand movements elsewhere?

5) Social movements in the 2010s

How has the crisis shaped social movements – themes, actors, relationships between movements, with parties and the state? Will models of social partnership and mainstreaming survive austerity and coercion? What ‘new’ forms of mobilisation are evident – new technologies, new tactics, and new kinds of relationships between movement actors? How are global movements changing (e.g. transnational anti-capitalism; the Arab Spring; anti-austerity mobilisations; diasporic social movements)? Why has the movement response to the crisis in Ireland been so muted?


We invite abstracts (up to 250 words) on any of the themes above or addressing other themes in social movement studies which you feel deserve greater research. Abstracts should include a title, your email address and institutional affiliation if any (independent scholars and movement practitioners are welcome to submit). Please send abstracts to Theresa O’Keefe by October 1st 2011.

Papers (up to 10,000 words including bibliography) should be submitted by November 14th 2011. Papers which are submitted by the deadline will be included in a CD-ROM for all conference participants, as an immediate “state of the art” collection of who is doing what in Irish social movement studies. (This does not, of course, prevent you using reworked versions of the paper as the basis for articles, book chapters etc.)

Papers which are submitted in time will also be considered for inclusion in an edited volume with an academic publisher.


Detailed information will be made available in due course, but this will be a one-day (Saturday) conference at NUI Maynooth. The event is being organised on behalf of the Critical Political Thought, Activism and Alternative Futures research cluster at NUI Maynooth with an organising committee of Dr Theresa O’Keefe and Dr Laurence Cox (Dept.of Sociology, National University of Ireland Maynooth) and Dr Cristina Flesher Fominaya (Dept. of Sociology, University of Aberdeen).

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