Protest groups in the aftermath of mass protest campaigns

funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) (2022-2025)

Research shows that protest groups, defined as groups that use unconventional nonviolent strategies (e.g. demonstrations, strikes), are essential for democracy. However, they can also undermine democratic transition processes if they operate outside the social consensus. We have a comprehensive understanding of why mass protest campaigns arise and when they are successful, as well as their impact on political institutions and individual activists. Yet it is less clear how the success or failure of mass protest campaigns affects protest groups in the country. This research gap also exists due to the lack of quantitative data at the meso-level. The proposed project aims to fill these gaps by answering the question: How do mass protest campaigns against the state affect the mobilization of protest groups in the post-campaign period? 

It is argued that successful mass protest campaigns increase the likelihood that formerly cohesive protest coalitions will be fragmented; protest groups that were active in the campaign thus become more active. At the same time, successful mass protest campaigns also increase the probability that protest groups that were not active in the campaign will become more active due to spillover effects. Failed mass protest campaigns against the state suggest different dynamics: campaign protest groups are often demobilized, while the effects on non-campaign protest groups are less clear. The project will test the theoretical expectations by using a mixed-methods approach to consider the disadvantages of each of the following approaches: (1) a global quantitative analysis, (2) a subnational quantitative analysis in Nepal comparing protest groups after a failed and a successful mass protest campaign against the state, and (3) interviews with protest groups in Nepal to address the underlying causal mechanisms. By focusing on protest groups after mass protest campaigns, the proposed project contributes to research on contentious politics, especially mass protests, civil resistance and democratic transitions, highlighting the often neglected meso-level.