Non-Violent Social Movements

Reclaiming Stonewall: Welcome to the Celebration—and the Struggle
Douglas A. Johnson. 6/25/2019. “Reclaiming Stonewall: Welcome to the Celebration—and the Struggle.” The Nation.Abstract
A new edition of The Nation examines the meaning of Stonewall. 

Guest edited by Timothy McCarthy, the issue asks us, 'What still needs to be done?'

"Anniversaries are occasions for remembrance, even pride and celebration, but they should also be moments of reckoning, which offer us the opportunity to reflect critically on where we come from, where we are, and where we go from here. 

To help us reckon with the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, The Nation invited a remarkable group of LGBTQ activists, artists, and academics to reflect on its many legacies. Ranging in age from 23 to 88 years old, the participants in “Reclaiming Stonewall” represent the stunning diversity of our community across generations. Combining the personal and the political, this collection of living queer histories is something of an archive of our moment, when many of us are grappling with what might be called the paradox of progress: the coexistence of important changes—in courtrooms and legislatures, hearts and minds—with seemingly intractable challenges.

As we reckon with the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, let us heed all these voices and ask, “What still needs to be done?” If the legacy and inheritance of Stonewall mean anything, it’s that our fight is far from over and that our collective struggle for liberation—for everyone—must continue."

—Timothy Patrick McCarthy

Erica Chenoweth. 10/23/2019. “The science of contemporary street protest: New efforts in the United States.” Science Advances 5 (10). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Since the inauguration of Donald Trump, there has been substantial and ongoing protest against the Administration. Street demonstrations are some of the most visible forms of opposition to the Administration and its policies. This article reviews the two most central methods for studying street protest on a large scale: building comprehensive event databases and conducting field surveys of participants at demonstrations. After discussing the broader development of these methods, this article provides a detailed assessment of recent and ongoing projects studying the current wave of contention. Recommendations are offered to meet major challenges, including making data publicly available in near real time, increasing the validity and reliability of event data, expanding the scope of crowd surveys, and integrating ongoing projects in a meaningful way by building new research infrastructure.
Ralph Ranalli. 10/4/2019. “Erica Chenoweth illuminates the value of nonviolent resistance in societal conflicts.” Harvard Kennedy School.Abstract
See HKS's new article featuring Professor Erica Chenoweth’s research.

Paths to Resistance: Professor Erica Chenoweth’s research shows the value of nonviolent resistance in societal conflicts, making her a resource for activists opposing oppressive regimes worldwide.

THEY REACH OUT TO ERICA CHENOWETH ALMOST DAILY—from Africa, South America, the Middle East, Europe, even the United States. They hail from places where authoritarian officials are tightening their grip, where repression is on the rise, and where citizens are mobilizing against governments they want to unseat. Their inquiries usually boil down to one key question: How can we win without resorting to violence?

Chenoweth’s painstaking research, unprecedented in its scope and historical breadth, has shed new light on the understanding of civil resistance, political change, and the surprising effectiveness of nonviolent action.

It has made Chenoweth, a professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School and a Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, one of an elite group of global experts on civil resistance. She is sought out both for her remarkable chronicling of nonviolent movements and for her understanding of what can potentially make or break them.

Read full article here. 


David Robson. 5/13/2019. “The '3.5% rule': How a small minority can change the world.” BBC Future. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Research featuring Carr Center's Erica Chenoweth. 

Nonviolent protests are twice as likely to succeed as armed conflicts – and those engaging a threshold of 3.5% of the population have never failed to bring about change.

"In 1986, millions of Filipinos took to the streets of Manila in peaceful protest and prayer in the People Power movement. The Marcos regime folded on the fourth day.

In 2003, the people of Georgia ousted Eduard Shevardnadze through the bloodless Rose Revolution, in which protestors stormed the parliament building holding the flowers in their hands."

Read the full article on BBC Future.

Civil Action and the Dynamics of Violence
Erica Chenoweth, Deborah Avant, Marie Berry, Rachel Epstein, Cullen Hendrix, Oliver Kaplan, and Timothy Sisk. 9/25/2019. Civil Action and the Dynamics of Violence, Pp. 320. Oxford University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Read more on "Civil Action and the Dynamics of Violence":

Many view civil wars as violent contests between armed combatants. But history shows that community groups, businesses, NGOs, local governments, and even armed groups can respond to war by engaging in civil action. Characterized by a reluctance to resort to violence and a willingness to show enough respect to engage with others, civil action can slow, delay, or prevent violent escalations. This volume explores how people in conflict environments engage in civil action, and the ways such action has affected violence dynamics in Syria, Peru, Kenya, Northern Ireland, Mexico, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Spain, and Colombia. These cases highlight the critical and often neglected role that civil action plays in conflicts around the world.

Erica Chenoweth and Margherita Belgioioso. 8/5/2019. “The Physics of Dissent and the Effects of Movement Momentum.” Nature Human Behaviour. Publisher's VersionAbstract
How do ‘people power’ movements succeed when modest proportions of the population participate?

Here we propose that the effects of social movements increase as they gain momentum. We approximate a simple law drawn from physics: momentum equals mass times velocity (p = mv). We propose that the momentum of dissent is a product of participation (mass) and the number of protest events in a week (velocity). We test this simple physical proposition against panel data on the potential effects of movement momentum on irregular leader exit in African countries between 1990 and 2014, using a variety of estimation techniques. Our findings show that social movements potentially compensate for relatively modest popular support by concentrating their activities in time, thus increasing their disruptive capacity. Notably, these findings also provide a straightforward way for dissidents to easily quantify their coercive potential by assessing their participation rates and increased concentration of their activities over time.

Read the full article here

The physics of dissent and the effects of movement momentum
Erica Chenoweth Margherita & Belgioioso. 8/5/2019. “The physics of dissent and the effects of movement momentum.” Nature Human Behaviour, 3, 10, Pp. 1088–1095.Abstract
For people power movements, does momentum equal mass times velocity? Erica Chenoweth & Margherita Belgioioso reflect on their recent findings in Nature Human Behaviour.

The recent revolutions in Algeria and Sudan remind us that bottom-up movements of people power can create sweeping political transformations. They did this in part by mobilizing huge numbers of active protestors—1 million in Algeria, and around 1 million in Sudan—which constituted impressive numbers in absolute terms. Yet due to coordination problems and the possibility of free riding—where those who stay on the side-lines can benefit from the results of mass mobilization without paying the costs or assuming the risk of participation—few mass movements have been able to mobilize significant proportions of their population. Algeria’s peak event during its “Smile Revolution” reportedly mobilized under 2.5% of the country’s population to effectively topple Bouteflika’s government in March 2019. And Sudan’s ongoing revolution, which reportedly mobilized fewer than 2.5% of Sudan’s national population, has already toppled the 30-year role of Omar al-Bashir and forced the transitional military council into a transitional power-sharing agreement with the opposition.

How do people power movements succeed while mobilizing modest proportions of the population? And how can dissidents successfully assess their power along the way? In our paper, we begin to answer these questions by turning to a simple metaphor: the physical law of momentum.

Read full article here. 

People Power is Rising in Africa
Zoe Marks, Erica Chenoweth, and Jide Okeke. 4/25/2019. “People Power is Rising in Africa.” Foreign Affairs. Publisher's VersionAbstract
New article in Foreign Affairs from Carr Center's Zoe Marks and Erica Chenoweth, with Jide Okeke. 

A new tide of people power is rising in Africa. On April 2, a nonviolent resistance movement in Algeria succeeded in pressuring Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign after 20 years as president. Nine days later, protesters in Sudan were celebrating the ouster of Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president of 30 years, after a three-month-long uprising against his regime.

The nonviolent overthrows of Bouteflika and Bashir are not aberrations. They reflect a surprising trend across the continent: despite common perceptions of Africa as wracked by violence and conflict, since 2000, most rebellions there have been unarmed and peaceful. Over the past decade, mass uprisings in Africa have accounted for one in three of the nonviolent campaigns aiming to topple dictatorships around the world. Africa has seen 25 new, nonviolent mass movements—almost twice as many as Asia, the next most active region with 16.

Read the full article on Foreign Affairs.