Social movements and collective action in divided societies

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Optional for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students of the PhD Programme in "Political Science and Sociology"

Optional for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students of the PhD Programme in "Transnational Governance"

Optional for the 4th and 5th year students of the MA Programme in "Political and Social Sciences"


Overview of the course: This course aims to provide students with a critical reading of the main debates within the field of collective action in divided societies, merging the literature on social movements with deeply divided societies studies. We will review the key debates on ethnically divided societies and the implication and challenges of institutional arrangements in governing them. We will try to understand the main dilemmas concerning the representation of minorities, non-dominant communities, and non-aligned citizens in power-sharing systems. Moreover, we will read recent scholarly works addressing various aspects of collective action in divided societies, from the formation of collective identities and the use of violence to the emergence of right to the city movements, environmental, gender and LGBTQ+ movements. We will also address the role of civic mobilizations and political parties in divided settings. The various sessions will discuss empirical cases and the relevant theoretical debates by looking at different geographical areas, from former Yugoslavia to Northern Ireland, passing by the MENA region.


Course format: The course is articulated into seven sessions according to the timetable provided below. Every session will be primary organized as a collective discussion rather than a lecture. For each of the meetings, students are required to adopt a pro-active stance based on the reading of all the articles/chapters in the reading list. At each meeting, one student will present the readings, describing their content, methods and findings in critical perspective. Then a general discussion will follow. All students must do the readings and active participation in the seminar is compulsory. Academic guests and PhD students from SNS will give invited talks on specific topics related to the course.


Requirements and assessment criteria: PhD students will be evaluated through their attendance and active participation in class (50%) and presentation (50%). PhD students are not required to write a paper, as the instructor will only determine whether they have passed (or failed) the course. PhD students willing to write their term paper on the topic of the course must agree the topic of the paper with the professor. The paper must be between 5,000 and 6,000 words and is due by September 30, 2022. Master students will be evaluated through their in-class attendance and participation (25%), presentation (25%) and final paper (50%). The final paper must be of no more than 3,000 words (references included) on one of the topics covered during the course, to allow the instructor to express a grade on a 30-point scale. The paper can be written in English or Italian and must be delivered by July 1st, 2022.More detailed information on the requirements of the course will be discussed on the first day of class.


Schedule of the course


Session 1: Social Movements in Divided Societies. An introduction

3/11/2021, h. 14-16


Required readings

      J. Nagle (2016) ‘”Unity in diversity”: Social movements in divided societies” in Social Movements in Violently Divided Societies: Constructing Conflict and Peacebuilding. London: Routledge, pp. 9-41

  C. Milan (2020) “Understanding Mobilization beyond Ethnicity in divided societies” in Social Mobilization beyond Ethnicity. London: Routledge, pp.21-40

Additional readings

    A. McCulloch, (2014) “Consociational settlements in deeply divided societies: the liberal-corporate distinction” Democratization 21 (3), pp. 501-518

    T. Agarin, A. McCulloch and C. Murtagh (2018) “Others in deeply divided societies: A research agenda” Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 24 (3), pp. 299-310



Session 2: Civic mobilization in divided societies. Frames, collective identities and alternative identification

10/11/2021, h. 14-17

Required readings

  C. Milan (2021) “Navigating Ethnicity: Collective Identities and Movement Framing in Deeply Divided Societies” Nationalities Papers pp.1-14

  J. Nagle and M. C. Clancy (2012) ‘Constructing a Shared Public Identity in Ethno Nationally Divided Societies: Comparing Consociational and Transformationist Perspectives’, Nations and Nationalism 18 (1): 78–97


Additional readings

  A. Piacentini (2020) ‘Nonaligned Citizens”: Ethnic Power-Sharing and Nonethnic Identities in Bosnia Herzegovina. The Case of Sarajevo’’, Nationalities Papers 48 (1): 1–14.

  H. Touquet  (2012) “The Republika Srpska as a strong nationalizing state and the consequences for postethnic activism” Nationalities Papers, 40 (2), pp. 203-220

  I. Costantini (2020) ‘The Iraqi Protest Movement: Social Mobilization amidst Violence and Instability’, British Journal   of Middle Eastern Studies, pp. 1–18


 Session 3: Electoral mobilization and political parties in divided societies

17/11/2021, h 14-17


Required readings

      C. Murtagh (2020) ‘The Plight of Civic Parties in Divided Societies’, International Political Science Review 41 (1), pp. 73–88

      C. Murtagh (2015) “Reaching across: Institutional Barriers to Cross-Ethnic Parties in Post-Conflict Societies and the Case of Northern Ireland” Nation and Nationalism 21(3), pp. 544-565


Additional readings

      A. Piacentini (2019) ‘“Trying to Fit In”: Multiethnic Parties, Ethno-Clientelism, and Power-Sharing in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia’, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 25 (3): 273–91

      H. Touquet (2011) “Multi-Ethnic Parties in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Naša Stranka and the Paradoxes of Postethnic Politics” Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism 11 (3), pp. 451-467


Session 4: Whose city? Urban commons, Right to the City movements and environmental mobilization in divided societies

24/11/2021, h. 14-17 with the participation of Aida Kapetanović, PhD candidate at SNS


Required readings

   C. Milan (2021) "The Mobilization for Spatial Justice in Divided Societies. Urban Commons, Trust Reconstruction and Socialist Memory in Bosnia and Herzegovina", East European Politics and Societies

   G. Carabelli (2018) “Grassroots Movements and the Production of (Other) Space(s)” in The Divided Cities and the Grassroots. The (un)making of ethnic divisions in Mostar. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan


Additional readings

    J.  Nagle (2016) ‘”The right to a divided city” in Social Movements in Violently Divided Societies: Constructing Conflict and Peacebuilding. London: Routledge, pp. 109-138

   O. Véron (2016) “Contesting the Divided City: Arts of Resistance in Skopje” Antipode 48 (5), pp. 1441-1461


Session 5: Feminist and LGBTQ+ activism in divided societies

1/12/2021, h.14-17

Required readings

    M. Deiana (2016) “To Settle for a Gendered Peace? Spaces for Feminist Grassroots Mobilization in Northern Ireland and Bosnia-Herzegovina,” Citizenship Studies 20(1), pp. 99–114

   C. Pierson and J. Thomson (2018) "Allies or Opponents? Power-Sharing, Civil Society, and Gender", Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 24 (1), pp. 100–115


Additional readings

   J. Nagle (2021) "Where the state freaks out: Gentrification, Queerspaces and activism in postwar Beirut, Urban Studies

   R. Kennedy, C. Pierson, and J.Thomson (2016) “Challenging Identity Hierarchies: Gender and Consociational Power-Sharing,” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations 18 (3): 618–33.


Session 6: De-colonizing the study of divided societies: evidence from Israel and Palestine

9/12/2021, h. 14-17  - with the participation of Federica Stagni, PhD candidate at SNS

Required readings

   A. J. Barker (2012) “Already Occupied: Indigenous Peoples, Settler Colonialism and the Occupy Movements in North America” Social Movement Studies 11(3-4), pp. 327-334

  C. Fortier (2017) “Unsettling Methodologies/Decolonizing Movements” Journal of Indigenous Social Development 6(1), pp.20-36


Additional readings

    R. Lentin (2020) “Palestinian Lives Matter: Racialising Israeli Settler-Colonialism”, Journal of Holy Land and Palestine Studies 19 (2), pp. 133-149

    E. Y. Alimi and L. Leitz (2019) “Introduction: thinking about divides” in Bringing Down Divides (Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, vol. 43), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 1-9


 Session 7: Radicalization and political violence in divided societies

15/12/2021 h.14-17 – Guest lecture of prof. Lorenzo Bosi “How social movements develop in deeply divided societies: the case of the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland

Required readings

  L. Bosi (2006) “The Dynamic of Social Movement Development: Northern Ireland's Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s” Mobilization 11(1), pp. 81-100.

   L. Bosi (2016) “Incorporation and Democratization. The long-term process of institutionalization of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement” in Lorenzo Bosi, Marco Giugni and Katrin Uba (eds.) The Consequences of Social Movements: Policies, People and Institutions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 338-360.


Additional readings

    L. Bosi, N. Ó Dochartaigh (2018 ) “Armed activism as the enactment of a collective identity: the case of the Provisional IRA between 1969 and 1972” Social Movement Studies 17 (1), pp. 35-47

    L. Bosi, G. De Fazio (2017)Contextualizing the Troubles: Investigating Deeply Divided Societies through Social Movements Research” in The Troubles in Northern Ireland and Theories of Social Movements, eds. L. Bosi and G. De Fazio, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 11


Obiettivi formativi

The course will have a seminar structure, with weekly discussions on seleceted readings and presentations of empirical reserach on the issues of social movements in divded societies. By the end of the seminar, students will have acquired a comprehensive and critical understanding of the emergence and development of social movements in divded societies, and are expected to be able to critically discuss the more recent scholarly debates on the formation of collective identities and the representation of minorities and non-aligned citizens in divided societies.