protest demonstration


Center on Social Movement Studies

The Center on Social Movement Studies (COSMOS) is based at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence.

Focusing on social movements as part of broader contentious politics, COSMOS  promotes theoretically-driven empirical analyses on forms, dimensions, causes and impacts of social movements and grassroots political participation, in established democracies as well as in authoritarian regimes. The main aim is to enhance knowledge and critical reflection on the main challenges of contemporary societies and the possible contributions of civil society. The analytical focus is on actors of civil society and their relations with socio-economic, political and cultural developments. Research addresses, among others, social movements active on economy and finance, labour rights, health rights, education, social policies, migrant rights, environment and climate change, civil rights, gender rights, youth and generations, as well as ethnonationalist  conflicts.

COSMOS provides a multidisciplinary hub between research and teaching at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences. It focuses on advancing research and fostering public debates at the intersection of diverse aspects of political participation and political contestation by bringing together political scientists, sociologists and practitioners (governmental and International Organizations’ officials, social activists, social movement organizations, unions, NGOs), in Italy and abroad.

COSMOS promotes its research activities by bringing together experts from the world of academia and practitioners and by developing multidisciplinary analyses that are at once methodologically rigorous and policy-relevant. The goal of the Center is to foster scientific knowledge by bridging a micro ‘bottom-up’ perspective on civil society mobilization, organization and culture with meso processes of political intermediation and media representation and ‘top-down’ processes of institutional adaptation, macro-structural changes and formal political processes.

Given the academic relevance and innovative potential of its program, the establishment of COSMOS as an official center at SNS offers a unique strategic opportunity for increasing synergies among existing national and international research projects based at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences which brings together scholars with research interests in a broad range of topics in political science, political economy and sociology that relate with contentious politics from multidisciplinary perspectives. Besides the core faculty, there are about 100 PhD students 8 master students and more than a dozen post-doctoral researchers as well as connections with strong international networks on which COSMOS capitalizes for its research activities.

Specifically, the Center offers the opportunity to go beyond traditional research boundaries by fostering a systematic and innovative research through the collaboration of scholars and students within the same and between disciplines.

COSMOS promotes methodologically rigorous analyses and policy-relevant debate by leveraging on the expertise of the faculty, researchers and students, as well as visiting scholars, and exploiting the multidisciplinarity of the Faculty but also seeking partnerships and contributions from the outside.

COSMOS provides the distinctive chance to develop research that is of interest not only to academics but also to the general public. A unique opportunity to identify and reflect on those issues that often escape scholarly attention, because they do not easily fit within any exclusive disciplinary perspective, will be created.

COSMOS research activities are organized around four main clusters: Democracy and social movements (coordinator: Donatella Della Porta); Social conflicts on inequality and labour (coordinator: Guglielmo Meardi); Media and political communication (coordinator Hans-Joerg Trenz); Political violence (coordinator: Lorenzo Bosi).