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The Project

Protest participation has been surging throughout Europe and the world as a whole. In most countries political protest has become the modal repertoire citizens employ to demand political changes or to express indignation. Increasingly, governments are confronted with citizens in the act of protest. At the same time, societies have changed dramatically during the last few decades. In our globalizing world, transnational and supranational political institutions impact on people's daily lives and have transformed the supply of politics. Simultaneously, networks rather than formal organizations have become the prime mode of organizing in our society, while new technologies such as the Internet, e-mail, and cell phones have dramatically changed our means of communication. Yet, how people mobilize for protest in these 'new' societal arrangements remains poorly understood.

This project attempts to find answers to the questions of who participates in protest, for what reason, and how they are mobilised. As the motivational dynamics of different forms of participation vary, we chose to focus on one particular type of protest, namely, protest demonstrations. The decision to take part in a protest demonstration is not taken in isolation but within a wider social and political context. We will investigate the impact of contextual variation on the dynamics of protest by comparing demonstrations in different countries and mobilizing contexts. Studies of protest behavior typically focus on a single protest event, which takes contextual variation out. Instead, we will develop comparative designs that enable us to study the influence of the national and mobilizing context. To that end we have developed a common theoretical framework, standardized measures, and techniques of sampling and data collection

The central tenet of this study is that a specific national context generates a specific mobilizing context; that the interaction of nation and mobilizing context produces a specific type of demonstration; that a specific type of demonstration brings a specific group of protestors into the streets. We assume that the composition of the group of protestors, their motives and the way they are mobilized result from the interaction of national context, mobilizing context, and type of demonstration (see Figure).

Each country team will make the comparison between demonstrations within its own country. In terms of the grand design (nation x mobilizing context x demonstration) we will elaborate the data in a division of labor inspired by disciplinary boundaries. In order to make this division of labor easily understandable each IP positions itself in reference to the central figure. In the final instance, each team takes protestor characteristics as its dependent variable, but the emphasis on other aspects of the framework varies. The two social psychological teams focus on motives and emotions, whereby the Spanish team concentrates on characteristics of the demonstration and the Dutch team on the influence of national and mobilizing context. The Swedish sociological team focus on the organizational field involved in organizing and mobilizing. It has a special interest in the role of old versus new social movements, with special attention for the role of the labor unions. The three political science teams emphasize the political aspects of demonstrations. The Swiss team has a special interest in how nations shape the mobilizing context. The Belgian team has an interest in how the mobilizing context and issues shape a demonstration. The British team will look at protest participation as a form of political participation and has a special interest in the transnational embeddedness of protest participation.