Society and Protest Workshop: Strategies and Symbols of Contentious Politics in Central Asia

OCT 20, 2021 | 12:00 PM TO 1:30 PM



The Graduate Center


October 20, 2021: 12:00 PM-1:30 PM




Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies



Join the Society and Protest Workshop on Wednesday, October 20, 2021 from 12:00 to 1:30 pm for the first session of the Fall 2021 semester under the theme of "Insider-Outsider Strategies". Colleen Wood, PhD Candidate, Columbia University, will present her paper, "Strategies and Symbols of Contentious Politics in Central Asia".

Abstract: Why do some civil society organizations choose to mobilize within the state, while others work outside it? How do groups make sense of the different institutional channels for communicating grievances and advancing rights claims? Empirically, I triangulate data collected over 18 months of digital fieldwork including visual analysis of social media data, digital participant observation, and semi-structured interviews to compare the strategies and discourse of civil society organizations in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. I find that groups in Kyrgyzstan tend to mobilize outside state-sponsored channels, while groups in Kazakhstan dedicated to political rights have gone through government institutions to make rights claims. The theory I develop explains that this variation is partially driven by top-down legislative context: in highly consolidated regimes, we see more mobilization through formal channels because stronger states can afford to enforce regulations on associational life. To understand variation within each case, I distinguish between consent and compliance in order to give careful attention to how activists devise strategies for making rights claims. I take an inductive approach to analyze the debates and arguments among civil society organizations and social movements in each country and find that different understandings of legitimacy and theories of political change are at the root of tactical and discursive differences.

About the author
Colleen Wood is a PhD candidate at Columbia University’s Political Science Department. Her research on civic identity and political participation in autocracies is funded by the National Science Foundation.

About the discussant

Zitian Sun is a graduate student at the Department of Politics, New York University. His main research focuses are states’ repression tactics, organizations in contentious politics, and radicalization dynamics in social movements, with a regional focus in East Asia.

Register to receive the paper and the Zoom details for the meeting: