Networks and Social Change in Contemporary Social Movements

Date and Location

May 05, 2015 - 4:00pm
Network Science Lab, Bldg 434, Rm 122


Alex Kulick
IGERT Trainee
Sociology Department, UCSB


In this week’s session, Alex Kulick will introduce key concepts in social movement theory, as well as how a network-based approach has contributed and could continue to expand the study of social movements. This will include a discussion of contemporary social movements and network-based dynamics related to protest diffusion and coalition strategies, focusing on two recent papers published in high-status sociology journals:

Wang, Dan J. and Sarah A. Soule. 2012. “Social Movement Organizational Collaboration: Networks of Learning and the Diffusion of Protest Tactics, 1960–1995.” American Journal of Sociology 117(6):1674–1722.

Abstract: “This article examines the diffusion of protest tactics among social movement organizations (SMOs) through their collaboration in protest groups. Using a longitudinal data set of SMO protest activity between 1960 and 1995, the authors adapt novel methods for dealing with two forms of selection and measurement bias in network analysis: (i) the mechanism that renders some SMOs more likely to select into collaboration and (ii) the notion that diffusion is an artifact of homophily or indirect learning rather than influence. The authors find that collaboration is an important channel of tactical diffusion and that SMOs with broader tactical repertoires adopt more tactics via their collaboration with other SMOs, but only up to a point. Engaging in more collaboration also makes SMOs more active transmitters and adopters of new tactics. Finally, initial overlap in respective tactical repertoires facilitates the diffusion of tactics among collaborating SMOs.”

Ghaziani, Amin and Delia Baldassarri. 2011. “Cultural Anchors and the Organization of Differences: A Multi-Method Analysis of LGBT Marches on Washington.” American Sociological Review 76(2):179–206.

Abstract: “Social scientists describe culture as either coherent or incoherent and political dissent as either unifying or divisive. This article moves beyond such dichotomies. Content, historical, and network analyses of public debates on how to organize four lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Washington marches provide evidence for an integrative position. Rather than just describe consistencies or contradictions, we contend that the key analytic challenge is to explain the organization of differences. We propose one way of doing this using the mechanism of a cultural anchor. Within and across marches, a small collection of ideas remains fixed in the national conversation, yet in a way that allows activists to address their internal diversity and respond to unfolding historical events. These results suggest that activists do not simply organize around their similarities but, through cultural anchors, they use their commonalities to build a thinly coherent foundation that can also support their differences. Situated at the nexus of culture, social movements, sexualities, and networks, this article demonstrates how the anchoring mechanism works in the context of LGBT political organizing.”