Collaborative Research Networks

CRN21  Law and Social Movements


Amarilys Abreu, Simón Escoffier, Douglas Smith

This CRN brings together scholars interested in the complex relationship between law and social movements.  Social movements use a wide variety of legal strategies – including litigation, lobbying, and administrative advocacy – in their programs for social change.  Law, and particularly rights, provides movements with political opportunities and plays a role in the cultural life of a social movement.  Law is a contested terrain for social movement struggles: movements rely on rights to frame their grievances, to generate and circulate collective identity, and to recruit and mobilize activists.  On the other hand, law and legal strategies can exert a conservative influence on social movements, channeling protest and more radical forms of action into conventional political institutions. Scholars participating in this CRN are working on theoretical and empirical projects on movements throughout the world that explore these and many other issues emerging from social movements’ interactions with law and the legal system. Participants have several long-range goals.   We hope to develop collaborative research and writing projects and to create opportunities for publication of CRN research, such as edited volumes and symposia in both law and society journals, as well as outlets in our home disciplines.  We plan to share syllabi and other teaching resources for undergraduate and graduate classes on law and social movements.   Finally, the CRN will provide opportunities for cross-generational and inter-disciplinary professionalization. Unfortunately, most sociologists do not read the work of McCann, Milner, and Olson.  On the other hand, many Law and Society scholars seem unaware of the copious sociological research on social movements.  Through the scholarly exchanges facilitated by the CRN, we can correct these oversights and produce richer studies that can inform the debates not just in Law and Society, but also in our home disciplines.


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