Transnational political contention and global activism

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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 the analytical tools to understand transnational dynamics of past and present social movements, as well as other forms of contentious politics. It does so by addressing key concepts and theories that explain the process of transnationalization and globalization of contention, their development over time and their outcomes. Empirical cases discussed will include the Global Justice movement, transnational women and anti-gender movements, global activism in the field of climate justice and environmental protection, as well as transnational campaigns in the field of labour rights, migration and racial justice. The course will benefit from the participation of scholars who are members of the “Transnational Political Contention in Europe” (TraPoCo) Jean Monnet research network, of which SNS is the leading institution. They will present the findings of their research and engage in the discussion concerning their fields of expertise.


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. All students must do the readings and active participation in the seminar is compulsory. At each session one student will present the readings, describing their content, methods, and findings in critical perspective. A general discussion will follow. Academic guests will give invited talks on specific topics related to the course and present their empirical research.


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: Introduction: Transnational political contention and global activism

5/04/2022, h. 14-16

Required readings

D. della Porta and S. G. Tarrow (2005) Transnational Protest and Global Activism. People, Passions, and Power. Lanham (MD): Rowman & Littlefield, Chapter 1: “Transnational Processes and Social Activism: An Introduction”, pp. 1-20 and Chapter 9: “Social Movements beyond Borders: Understanding Two Eras of Transnational Activism”, pp. 203-226

Additional readings

M. Keck and K. Sikkink (1998) Activists beyond Borders. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, Chapter 1: “Transnational Advocacy Networks in International Politics: Introduction”, pp. 1-38


S. Tarrow (2010). Dynamics of Diffusion: Mechanisms, Institutions, and Scale Shift. In The Diffusion of Social Movements: Actors, Mechanisms, and Political Effects, edited by Rebecca Kolins Givan, Kenneth M. Roberts, and Sarah A. Soule, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 204–219.


Session 2: The transnational dimension of social movements. From the Global Justice Movement to #Occupy

13/04/2022, h. 14.30-17.30

Required readings

 S. Soule and C. Roggeband (2019) Diffusion processes within and across movements. In The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Social Movements, second edition, David A. Snow, Sarah A. Soule, Hanspeter Kriesi and H.J. McCammon (eds) Malden, MA: Blackwell, pp. 236-251.

J. Smith (2001) 'Globalizing Resistance: The Battle of Seattle and the Future of Social Movements', Mobilization: An International Quarterly 6 (1): 1-19.

Additional readings


M. Pianta and R. Marchetti (2007) “The Global Justice Movements: The Transnational Dimension” in D. della Porta (ed.) The Global Justice Movement: A Cross-National and Transnational Perspective. Boulder, CO: Paradigm, pp. 29-51

J.E. Roos and L .Oikonomakis (2014) “They don’t represent us! The global resonance of the real democracy movement from the Indignados to Occupy” in D. della Porta and A. Mattoni (eds.) Spreading Protest: Social Movements in Times of Crisis Colchester:ECPR Press pp. 117- 135


Session 3: Political contention around migration: a multi-scale perspective

28/04/2022, h. 10-13 - with the participation of Dr. Federico Alagna. Guest lecture: “Migration activism and 'municipal militancy' in the EU: A multi-scale perspective"


Required readings


M. Portos and J. Alcalde (2018) “Scale shift and transnationalization within refugees’ solidarity activism. From Calais to the European level” in della Porta (ed.), Solidarity Mobilizations in the “Refugee Crisis”: Contentious moves. Palgrave, pp. 243-269

L. Fischer, M. B. Joergensen (2022) “Scale-switching as a response to a shrinking space for solidarity. A comparison of Denmark’s Venligboerne and Germany’s Seebrucke” in D. della Porta and E. Steinhilper (eds.) Contentious Migrant Solidarity London: Routledge


Additional readings

C. Lahusen, M. Kousis, U. Zschache and A. Loukakis (2018) “European solidarity in times of crisis: Comparing transnational activism of civic organisations in Germany and Greece” Österreichische Zeitschrift für Soziologie, Supplement 1/43: 173-197

E. Steinhilper (2018) ‘Mobilizing in Transnational Contentious Spaces: Linking Relations, Emotions and Space in Migrant Activism’. Social Movement Studies 17 (5): 574–91.


Session 4: Transnational feminist and anti-gender movements


29/04/2022, h.10-13 – guest lecture of prof. Zorica Širočić, Department of Sociology, University of Graz: “The transnational contentious politics of gender”


Whereas women’s, feminist and LGBTQI+ movements have traditionally cooperated to establish international mechanisms for advancing the standards of gender and sexual equality (e.g. World Conferences on Women, 1975-1990), the conscious efforts of their opposition to transnationally coordinate protests, frames and coalitions are of the recent date. ‘Contentious gender politics’ refers to the clash of opposing i.e. feminist and LGBTQ+ vs. ‘anti-gender’ movements concerning issues such as bodily integrity, kinship structures, sexual morality, and institutionalization of gender equality (Lavizzari and Sirocic, 2022). What are the specifics of the contemporary contentious gender politics – how do these transnational movements adapt to the regional and local contexts, and what are the responses? The lecture uses the social movement studies approach to present the basic features of the contemporary contentious gender politics and draws on the empirical examples to illustrate the phenomenon in question across different political terrains.


Zorica Siročić is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Graz in Austria. Her teaching and research foci include political sociology and sociology of gender.


Required readings


Corredor, E. S. (2019). Unpacking “Gender Ideology” and the Global Right’s Antigender Countermovement. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 44(3), 613–638


Dean, J. 2010. Rethinking Contemporary Feminist Politics. Basingstoke, Hampshire; New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. (Chapter 1, p. 9-35).


Additional readings:

Fillieule, O. and Broqua, C. 2020. Sexual and reproductive rights movements and counter movements from an interactionist perspective. Social Movement Studies, 19(1), 1–20.


Roggeband, C. 2018. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Making Sense of Opposition to Feminisms from a Social-Movement Perspective. In M. Verloo (Ed.), Varieties of Opposition to Gender Equality in Europe. Routledge, chapter 2, pp. 19-37



Session 5: Global governance and transnational contention in labour politics

6/05/2022, h.10-13 Guest lecture of Dr Imre Szabo and Dr Darragh Golden, University College Dublin: "Transnational labour activism in public and private services. The cases of the European Citizens' Initiative Right to Water and the Pilots' Strike at Ryanair."


Required readings

Szabó, I., Golden, D. and Erne, R. (2021) “Why Do some Labour Alliances Succeed in Politicizing Europe across Borders? A Comparison of the Right2Water and Fair Transport European Citizens’ Initiatives” Journal of Common Market Studies pp. 1-19

Golden, D. and Erne, R. (forthcoming). 'Ryanair Pilots. Unlikely Pioneers of Transnational Collective Action'

Additional readings

Erne, R. (2008) European Unions: Labor’s Quest for a Transnational Democracy. Ithaca, N.Y: ILR Press/Cornell University Press. Chapter 2: Approaching Euro-Democracy and Its Alternatives pp. 11-28.

Gentile, A. and Tarrow S. (2009) “Charles Tilly, Globalization, and Labor’s Citizen Rights.” European Political Science Review 1(3): 465–93.

Silver, B. (2013) "Theorising the Working Class in Twenty-First-Century Capitalism" in Workers and Labour in a Globalised Capitalism: Contemporary Themes and Theoretical Issues (editor: Maurizio Atzeni) Palgrave Macmillan



Session 6: Racial justice struggles and the transnational mobilization around issues of race

11/05/2022, h.10-13

     Required readings


A. Klotz (2002). “Transnational Activism and Global Transformations: The Anti-Apartheidand Abolitionist Experiences”. European Journal of International Relations, 8(1), 49-76.

Mundt, M., Ross K., Burnett M.C. (2018) “Scaling social movements through social media: the case of Black Lives Matter” Social Media + Society: 1-14.

Additional readings


Milman N., Folashade A., della Porta D., Doerr N., Kocyba P., Lavizzari A., Reiter H., Plucienniczack P.,Sommer M., Steinhilper E., Zajak S. 2021. Black Lives Matter in Europe: Transnational diffusion, local translation and resonance of anti-racist protest in Germany, Italy, Denmark and Poland compared. Research Note. Funding: German Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ).


C. Milan and B. Hall (forthcoming), “Belonging to or transcending the nation? Youth racial justice struggles in Italy and the United Kingdom”, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies


Session 7: Transnational political contention in the field of environmental and climate justice

18/05/2022, h. 14-17


Cosmos talk:

Guest lecture of prof. Jelisaveta Petrovic and prof. Jelena Pesic, University of Belgrade

Guest lecture of prof. Aron Buzogany and Dr. Patrick Scherhaufer, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) of Vienna. Lecture: “Marginal environmentalism: Local environmental activism and global trends in the European neighborhood”


Required readings

P. Jehlička and K. Jacobsson (2021) “The importance of recognizing difference: Rethinking Central and East European environmentalism” Political Geography 87


B. Doherty and T. Doyle (2006) “Beyond Borders: Transnational Politics, Social Movements and Modern Environmentalisms” Environmental Politics 15 (5) pp.697-712


Additional readings

N. Wunsch (2018) EU Enlargement and Civil Society in the Western Balkans: From Mobilisation to Empowerment. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. (chapters: 5. Civil Society Mobilisation in Serbia (pp. 95-122); 6. Comparing Mobilisation Strategies and Outcomes (pp. 123-144)

J. Martinez-Alier (2014) “The environmentalism of the poor” Geoforum 54, pp. 239-241



Obiettivi formativi

The course will have a seminar structure, with weekly discussions on selected readings and presentations of empirical research on the topic of transnational political contention and global activism. By the end of the seminar, students will have acquired a comprehensive and critical understanding of transnational dynamics of past and present social movements. They are also expected to get acquainted with key concepts and theories explaining the transnationalization and globalization of contention.