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The University of Southampton

PAIR2047 Politics and Protest

Module Overview

Politics is often about conflict, but sometimes that conflict takes place within legislative bodies and other times in the streets. Most of what we study in political science courses focuses on conflict within the electoral framework, but this course asks what happens when citizens take conflict into their own hands. It asks : How are people mobilised into potentially dangerous activism and how do state responses (such as heavy-handed policing) affect them? What role do social movements play in political protests and how are they affected by long-term structural changes? This module will examine the conditions that prompt people to organize on behalf of their collective interests, how protest movements evolve and under what conditions they succeed. The goal is to use the scientific method to move beyond specific examples and, ultimately, understand the broader causes, strategies, and consequences of protests. Following the module, students will be able to see protests through an analytical lens that allows them to look past the noise and media frenzy.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The problems and challenges facing social movement networks
  • The definition of the types of protests and the explanations their motivations and consequences.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the major scholarly debates concerning social movement dynamics in political protests.
  • Demonstrate an ability to understand, evaluate and critique the main schools and debates within social movement theory and apply them critically across a wide spectrum of empirical case studies.
  • Demonstrate a comparative understanding of the complex interplay between formal politics, social movements, beliefs, tactics and structures.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Prove an understanding of the methodological problems surrounding the study of social movements, and in particular the application of social movement theory beyond its original focus (secular, non-violent protest movements in Europe and the USA) to explain religious movements, violent movements, movements in the ‘global South’ and/or transnational movements.
  • Exhibit a capacity to develop empirical and normative research skills.


The module will be split into two distinct parts. The first half of the module will cover theoretical topics: the causes, strategies, and consequences of protest activity. The second half of the class will focus on typologies of protest through comparative case studies. These typologies will focus on specific attributes of protests such as their use of violence, their organizational structures, and their relationships with political parties. Case studies in lecture will be based on examples ranging from a series of geographically and thematically differentiated case studies: the US Civil Rights movement; The Women’s Liberation Movement, Transnational Islamists Movements (the Muslim Brotherhood), the Italian Left and the Red Brigades; the Lebanese Shi’a and Hizballah; the Global Justice or Anti-Globalisation Movement; and the Egyptian ‘25 January Revolution’ of 2011, and the Extinction Rebellion Environmental Movement. The course will explore the theories’ usefulness in explaining secular, peaceful social movements in ‘the global North’ (the field’s original focus) and then evaluate the theories’ applicability to studying other types of social movements: movements operating in ‘the global South’; religious social movements; violent, underground organisations; and transnational movements. Throughout, the module will look at the implications of modernisation, globalisation and changes in state, societal and economic structures on both social movements and social movement theory.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

2 hours of lectures per week. All will be recorded and posted on Blackboard. Lectures will be delivered either face to face or online only depending upon University and Public Health England Guidance at the time. Total of 24 hours of lectures (2 hours per week X 12 weeks) per module. Weekly student participation in online discussion boards. 1 hour per week delivered asynchronously. (1 hour X 12 weeks)

Independent Study114
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

McAdam, McCarthy and Zald (eds.). Comparative Perspectives on Social Movements: Political Opportunities, Mobilizing Structures, and Cultural Framings. 

McAdam, D., Tarrow, S., and Tilly, C (2001). Dynamics of Contention. 

Tarrow, Sidney G (2011). Power in movement: Social movements and contentious politics. 

Della Porta, Donatella and Tarrow, Sidney G. (eds.) (2005). Transnational protest and global activism. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Discussion board activity 25%
Research project 50%
Research proposal 25%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Core texts these should generally be available on the reserve list in the library. However due to demand, students may prefer to buy their own copies. These can be purchased from any source

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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