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oliver at ssc dot wisc dot edu

Pamela Oliver
Sociology Dept
1180 Observatory Dr. Madison, Wisconsin



Professor Pamela Oliver

Department of Sociology

Sociology 924

Seminar in Political Sociology:

Social Movements Theory and Research


Course Description

Calendar of Reading Assignments Opens a new page with the course schedule

Topical Index of Readings Pages Opens a new page
Test link to protected folder (username and password have been emailed to class members) This should open a text file with a little article about anarchists Syllabus to download & print
word processor format (Spring 2011)
Test link to an article in JSTOR (Should open to a PDF file of an article by Snow & Benford. This should be accessible to anyone recognized as part of UW - you may need to do a library proxy login to have access if you are off campus)
Chapters in Blackwell Companion to Social Movements   Older reading list (long version) to download and print: RTF word processor format
List of Material in On-Line Library Reserves, Grouped by Topic URL for library reserves is in learn@uw Contents of Edited Collections of Social Movements Articles Link to Learn@UW (use for uploading assignments)

Fall 2009. Course meets Mondays 3:30-6 in 6304 Sewell Social Science. (Note: mostly relocated to #8146 seminar room when it is not otherwise occupied.)

Course Description

This seminar is designed to pull students into current theoretical and empirical issues in the study of social movements. Some class sessions will be devoted to providing a general overview of the field, sketching out those findings and understandings which are generally seen as well established, and pointing to new lines of inquiry and unanswered questions which are the focus of current research in the field. Other sessions will be devoted to more detailed discussion of specific debates or issues or movements. Special emphasis will be given to identifying strategies and methodologies for doing research in this area, and to discussing the empirical implications and utility of various theoretical approaches. The exact choice of topics to pursue in depth and the order of events will be determined after I learn more about the background and interests of the students enrolled in the course.

Research in this area has grown dramatically in the past ten years, and it is no longer possible for us to read comprehensively within the scope of one semester. I have chosen readings with an eye to acquainting you with the range of theoretical and empirical issues being pursued by scholars in this area, but you will need to read beyond the materials on this syllabus if you wish to consider yourself well-read in this area.

In many ways, the study of collective behavior and social movements is the study of collective agency, as social movements arise when people act together to promote or resist social change. The field of collective behavior and social movements spans the usual micro-macro divide in sociology. On the micro end, the field overlaps with social psychology, and important issues include: how people come to decide to challenge authority and act collectively, the relative importance of instrumental and non-instrumental motivations to action, and the interactional processes whereby action comes about and meanings are constructed. At the meso or middle level, the field overlaps with the subareas of organizations and social networks, and issues include: the social organization of protest groups; studies of culture and movements; the constraints on and consequences of tactics and strategies; the relative importance of movement organizations and external or preexisting organizations; the impact of professionals, professionalism, and resource mobilization on movements; and the interplay between organizations and non-organizational crowd or mass behavior. At the macro level, the field overlaps with political sociology, and the focus in on how movements are constrained by and in turn affect the polities and economies within which they are embedded, both national and international. Theorizing in the social movements area has long tended toward the synthetic, and in recent years, theorizing has become increasingly dynamic, and interactive. It is a field that is focused on understanding how things work, not on dividing into polarized theoretical armies. Research and theory at any level of analysis will be improved by an awareness of the others, and I urge all students to work to develop some understanding of topics that are not of central interest to them.


JSTOR URLs for articles, in process




Questions or Comments? Email Oliver -at- ssc -dot- wisc -dot- edu. Last updated January 21, 2011 © University of Wisconsin.