Reconceptualizing Social Movements and Power: Towards a Social Ecological Approach

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Existing social movement theories subsume protests into abstract conceptualizations of society, and current ethnographic studies of protests overburden description. Through a case study of London protests, this article transcends these limitations by articulating a social ecological approach consisting of critical ethnography and autoethnography that unearth the organizational strategies and symbolic representations exchanged among police, protesters, and third-party observers, while mapping the physical and symbolic characteristics of space bearing on these interactions. This approach points to a conceptualization of power at work as transient, typological structures: (a) rooted in collective agency; (b) both mediating and mediated by symbolic representations; (c) whose sensibilities are determined by symbolic interpretations; and (d) thrown into binary opposition between protester power and police power, who mutually represent meanings to resist and be resisted by.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-545
Number of pages27
JournalSociological Quarterly
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2017


  • Collective behavior and social movements
  • community and urban sociology
  • methodology
  • political sociology
  • social psychology
  • theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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