Stiteler Hall Room B26
Issues in Contemporary East Asia Colloquium Series
Although the concept of protest cycles has received much attention in the social movements literature, its empirical operationalization remains relatively crude compared to the rich theoretical discussion. We expand the application of the concept of protest cycles by reimagining movements as a population of interlinked protests and identifying events that play critical roles in historical outcomes. We demonstrate the usefulness of considering protest cycles as protest event networks with a novel dataset on South Korea’s democracy movement. In our conceptualization protest events play the role of network nodes and links are identified based on protesters citing prior events as sources of inspiration for mobilizing. Appropriating strategies for network analysis we ascertain the types of events that were more likely to motivate subsequent protests and bridge otherwise disconnected events. Results suggest that protests that raised systemic versus local issues, targeted political versus economic actors, used disruptive tactics, were repressed by state authorities, involved well-known activist leaders, and were sponsored by formal social movement organizations were more likely to be central events. By identifying the characteristics of events that contribute to the probability of protest contagion and movement cohesion, our novel approach to analyzing protest cycles sheds new light on dominant themes in social movement research.
Paul Y. Chang is Associate Professor of Sociology at Harvard University. He is the author of Protest Dialectics: State Repression and South Korea’s Democracy Movement, 1970-1979 (Stanford University Press 2015) and co-editor of South Korean Social Movements: From Democracy to Civil Society (Routledge 2011).