Global Protest Communication (MA)

Public communication as a means to mobilize support is a necessary prerequisite for any kind of political change: Both in democracies and in authoritarian systems, political innovations usually originate in social movements and groups that are distant from political power. To affect politics, these groups need to campaign in public, rally their supporters, and strategically insert their ideas into the political debate. This course investigates both the opportunity structures that shape the possibilities for political activism, and the strategies and tactics used in communicating protest. We look at a wide variety of cases around the world, ranging from opposition movements in Socialist and authoritarian countries, over environmental and civil rights protests, to peace movements and protests on behalf of foreign nations. Examining the successes and failures of different groups, we will in a first block lay the theoretical foundations for a deepened understanding of protest communication. The second block builds upon the theoretical foundations and questions discussed in the first part, and examines the working of these conditions in different political, media, and cultural contexts around the world. Based on the theoretical knowledge, we will develop small, group-based empirical research projects that look into some recent case of activist communication and investigate their rhetorical, communicative and media-related strategies for rallying support. The findings from the study will feed back into both the theoretical development and the practical understanding of effective strategies for protest and social movement communication.

Course Topics

  • Communicating for political change: Basics 
  • Challenges in protest communication I: Attention & Persuasion 
  • Challenges in protest communication II: Legitimation & Persuasion 
  • Challenges in protest communication III: Mobilizing Supporters 
  • Social movements & protest communication in different cultural contexts 
  • Social movements & protest communication in the Online Age 
  • Analyzing protest communication & Selection of case studies 
  • Development of a structured approach for the case studies I 
  • Development of a structured approach for the case studies II 
  • Validation & Getting ready for the field 
  • Group consultations during the research process 
  • Presentation & discussion of results I 
  • Presentation & discussion of results II