Minds of the Movement

An ICNC blog on the people and power of civil resistance

Scholarship & Research

Articles

What Soldiers and Police Need to Know About Protests (Series Part I)

You’re a soldier or police officer who’s been asked to control and possibly shut down a public protest. You’ve been told the protesters are threatening public safety and national security. However, when you encounter them, things are not so clear. There are hundreds or thousands of people and they are not being violent. They say they are standing up for your country’s values. […]

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Scholarship & Research

Ukrainians vs. Putin: Potential for Nonviolent Civilian-based Defense

Ukrainians show a surprising level of support for the type of resistance that neither Ukrainian policymakers nor their Western backers have considered in their defense planning: mass nonviolent resistance actions against a formidable military invader. This human potential for nonviolent resistance remains unfortunately untapped in the Ukrainian national defense strategy. How Ukrainians defend their country against a more militarily powerful adversary will determine Ukraine’s future, including the survival of its nascent democracy. […]

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Scholarship & Research

Explaining Military Coups and Defections—and What Activists Can Do With This Knowledge

Militaries can defect in different manners: by following orders inefficiently, disobeying them altogether, demanding the dictator step down, or joining the opposition. But they also sometimes remove an unpopular dictator by seizing power, as the Sudanese military did in April 2019. Unfortunately, most existing research does not differentiate coups and other forms of military disloyalty and thus does not explain why, during the course of a nonviolent campaign, some militaries defect and others seize power. This is an important question to explore, because different forms of military disloyalty likely bring about different nonviolent campaign outcomes. […]

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Ideas & Trends

What Can We Learn from Agent Provocateurs?

Over the past ten years, a large amount of social movement research has shown that peoples’ movements are more likely to succeed when they have unity among supporters, widespread participation, strategic planning, and nonviolent discipline. It is not surprising, therefore, that agent provocateurs both instigate and encourage real activists to behave in ways that undermine these four keys to movement success. Our challenge is to learn not to take the bait. Why would any of us want to act like agent provocateurs who are trying to harm our movements? […]

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Scholarship & Research

“Civil Resistance Against Climate Change”: Major Contributions, Remaining Challenges for Our Field (Book Review)

Over the last five years, groups and organizations like Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future emerged to mobilize against climate change and adopted more radical measures than the environmental movement has traditionally used. Although temporarily disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, a global nonviolent civil resistance movement is coalescing and it is clear that its leaders have been studying and drawing lessons from the field of civil resistance studies. […]

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Scholarship & Research

Toward More Sustainable Movements: What Path for Building Relationships between Social Work and Civil Resistance?

In my previous blog post, I discussed how social work experience and perspectives are a valuable resource to support communities engaged in civil resistance. I reasoned that a profession that brings skills and resources to address psychosocial, material, and relational well-being—and which claims an ethical accountability toward social justice—should work in partnership with those who put their own well-being on the line to advance a more just society through nonviolent action. If nonviolent movements can draw support from social work, couldn’t that positively impact the sustainability and perhaps even the success of their work? […]

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Scholarship & Research

Does Nonviolent Resistance Foster Peace?

In February 2006, as Nepal entered its tenth year of civil war, with several failed ceasefires, there was little prospect for peace with the Maoist rebels. Yet, two months later, after forming an alliance with Nepal’s Seven Party Opposition, the Maoists joined a national strike. This initiated a pro-democracy nonviolent movement that successfully removed King Gyanendra from power and led to a peace agreement, achieving in a few months what the armed rebellion had failed to achieve in ten years. The case of Nepal reminds us that ordinary people are not powerless actors in the context of civil war […]

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Scholarship & Research

Demand Escalation: How Nonviolent Movements Raise the Heat on Powerholders

In places as diverse as Algeria, Chile, Ecuador, Hong Kong, France, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan, people first came together to seek redress in a certain policy space (in the form of a “reformist” campaign) before escalating their demands for a leader’s removal or seeking greater systemic change (in the form of a “maximalist” campaign). In a recent project, I identify this “demand escalation” phenomenon as an increasingly prominent path of unscheduled government change and find that it is not unique to the current generation, limited to a certain regime type, or a specific geographical region. […]

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Scholarship & Research

What Role Does Social Trust Play in Civil Resistance?

For popular nonviolent campaigns to work, they must effectively mobilize both activists and bystanders while maintaining nonviolent discipline. In a world of diminishing social trust, this becomes exceptionally difficult. I address this challenge in my forthcoming ICNC research monograph, examining how trust shapes two important elements of civil resistance: mobilization and nonviolent action across Africa. […]

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Movement Commentary

Civil Resistance against Climate Change: Insights from Australia

Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future burst onto the world stage in 2018 to demand urgent action on the climate crisis. These movements organized strikes, blockades and demonstrations, building on the work of activists before them. But how frequently do climate activists use civil resistance? How do they sustain their campaign and organizing despite various challenges and repressive responses by the opponents and their allies? And what has civil resistance against climate change been able to achieve?

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