Summary: Mass protests have become an increasingly important element of the political environments of Europe (Spain, Greece, Ukraine, Georgia, Serbia, Latvia, Moldova and Russia), the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) (Egypt, Syria and Israel), Latin America (Chile, Brazil, Venezuela and Nicaragua) and North America (Mexico, United States and Canada). In each case we watch in amazement as a sea of previously disengaged people join in protests en masse (Onuch 2014a). And although study of protest is not new to Political Science, over the last decade we have not only seen a rise in mass protests around the globe, but also a rise in scholarly interest in the topic. There is an abundant literature on the mechanisms of protest mobilization at the macro level and on the divers of mobilization at the micro-level (Andrews and Biggs 2006; Ash 2011; Beissinger 2013; Beissinger and Sasse 2013; Bennett 2012; Benson and Rochon 2004; Bunce and Wolchik 2011; Diani and McAdam 2003; Greene 2014; Greskovits 1998; McAdam, Tarrow, and Tilly 2001; Meirowitz and Tucker 2013; Meyer 2004; Nilson and Nilson 1980; Robertson 2004, 2010; Rosenfeld 2017; Tarrow 1994; Tilly 2003). The most recent scholarship is pushing the boundaries of accepted theories by collecting and combining a variety of new data (protest event data, on-site survey data, and developing new questions on protest for nationally representative surveys) whilst adapting or developing new methods of analyzing this data.
Furthermore, major contributions in Political Science to in the field of contentious politics have come specifically from scholars focusing on so-called competitive authoritarian1 contexts, these include: Russia, Ukraine, Egypt, Turkey, and more recently, Venezuela and Nicaragua (see: Beissinger 2002, 2013; Beissinger, Jamal, and Mazur 2015; Bunce and Wolchik 2007; Ketchley 2017; Meirowitz and Tucker 2013; Onuch and Sagarzazu 2017; Pop-Eleches and Robertson 2014; Roberts 2009; Robertson 2007; Rosenfeld 2017). Specifically, contributions focusing on Ukraine or Russian published in leading political science journals like the American Political Science Review2 and the Journal of Democracy, have challenged our theoretical assumptions about protest coalitions (Beissinger 2013), empirical expectations around the role of socio-economic class in mass protest (Rosenfeld 2017), and have pushed forward the use of orthodox methodological tools in unorthodox settings (Onuch 2014b) sending waves through the field of contentious politics.
But one major problem remains, this work is rarely comparative across regions and thus, lacks coordination beyond major regional divides (within MENA, within Latin America and within Eastern Europe). This is significant as recent research has highlighted patterns, which may (or may not) be specific to the context of competitive authoritarian regimes more broadly and not to particular regions. These potential patterns require us to revisit: how we study moments of mass mobilization in competitive authoritarian contexts? And ask:

  • Are the mechanisms and processes explaining mass mobilization context specific? If so, what is specific to mass protest in competitive authoritarian contexts?
  • What are the new ground-breaking methods of studying what motivates and mobilizes ordinary citizens to join in protest event en masse?
  • What data do we/can we use in competitive authoritarian contexts and what are the methodological limitations of this data?
  • And finally: How has the study of mass mobilization in competitive authoritarian contexts changed empirical and theoretical expectations of how ordinary citizens come to join in mass protest?

The Competitive Authoritarian Protest Research Network (CAPRN) seeks to collectively investigate the above questions by bringing together leading scholars in the field in of both contentious politics (Graeme Robertson, Grzegorz Ekiert, Bryn Rosenfeld, Mark Beissinger, Neil Ketchley, Tomila Lankina) and comparative politics (Joshua Tucker, Grigore Pop-Eleches, Timothy Colton, Steven Levitsky, Nancy Bermeo, Henry Hale) who are mainly based in in four institutions which have developed international acclaim for their study of protest in competitive authoritarian contexts: New York University (specifically on the use of big data/social media in mass protest, but also protest in Eastern Europe and the MENA region), Princeton University (specifically on new statistical and survey methods for the study of protest as well as comparative revolution in Eastern, MENA and Latin America), Harvard University (specifically on Latin American and Post-Communist Protest and protest event analysis) and University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (more broadly on comparative protest politics).

Expected Outcomes: The key aim of the network will be to:

1) host three collaborative research events,

2) write 3-6 policy blogs with the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage Blog (co-publication),

3) produce a special issue in a leading political science journal (co-publication) and

4) work towards a collective large grant bid (ESRC/NSF joint scheme).

Founding members

  1. Olga Onuch (UoM, Founding Member) 
  2. Bryn Rosenfeld (Formerly Princeton/ University of Southern California)
  3. Graeme Robertson (Formerly Harvard/ UNC/PONARS)
  4. Grigore Pop-Eleches (Princeton)
  5. Grzegorz Ekiert (Harvard)
  6. Joshua Tucker (NYU, SMapp Lab)
  7. Mark Beissinger (Princeton)
  8. Meghan Metzer (Formerly NYU, SMapp Lab)
  9. Nancy Bermeo (Princeton)
  10. Timothy Colton (Harvard)
  11. Steven Levytsky (Harvard)
  12. Henry Hale (GWU, PONARS)