Social movements and the position of the researcher: Methods and approaches for analysing contemporary contestation and mobilisation

Workshops, Basel, September 17–18, 2013


Social movements and protests have become a central focus of research in African Studies and Social Anthropology. Against the backdrop of the European and American scholarly tradition, social movements in Africa or Asia appear in novel and hybrid forms and have also gained international attention in the social and mass media. Yet, the conceptualization of social movements remains scanty and researchers are confronted with pressing methodological questions. How transnational are today’s protests, and to what extent can their global appearance be attributed to the academic concepts and the global media hype that frame them in the first place? What is the position of the researcher, in terms of his or her sympathy/antipathy regarding demonstrators and implicit assumptions on notions such as ‘civil society’, ‘democratisation’, and ‘the state’? The goal of addressing these and further questions is to refine our analytical tools, to assess the suitability of established frameworks, and to clarify what area studies and related disciplines can (and cannot) contribute to the study of social movements and protests.

Combining public lectures and discussions with two parallel workshops on conceptual and methodological issues in social movement research, the University of Basel’s Centre for African Studies (CASB) and the Research Group on Political Transformation at the Institute of Social Anthropology invite PhD students and postdocs to two days of vigorous debate on their empirical research and specific methodological and/or conceptual questions.

Invited Speakers

Dr. Ineke van Kessel (University of Leiden)
Prof. Breno Bringel (University of Rio de Janeiro)

Call for Applications

To apply for participating at the workshops, we ask candidates to send a short CV and a 5-­page research outline to Julia Büchele (j.buechele{at} until July 15th 2013. The outline, which will also serve as a basis for discussion during the workshops, should explicitly relate to the workshop’s specific focus. The method-related workshop, moderated by Prof. Ineke van Kessel (Leiden), is concerned with “Social Movements and the Position of the Researcher: Normativity and assumptions”; the workshop on conceptual issues, held by Prof. Breno Bringel (Rio de Janeiro), is entitled “Against a catch‐all concept: Clarifying the meaning and context of social movements.”


Prof. Elísio Macamo (Centre for African Studies Basel)
Dr. Veit Arlt (Centre for African Studies Basel)


Centre for African Studies Basel
URPP Asia and Europe
Graduate School of Social Sciences, University of Basel

Program (draft)

Presentations (public): Ineke van Kessel and Breno Bringel
“Local or Global Social Movements? The context of contemporary protest and mobilisation”

Workshop 1 (methodological): Ineke van Kessel
“Social Movements and the Position of the Researcher: Normativity and assumptions”

Workshop 2 (conceptual): Breno Bringel
“Against a catch-all concept: Clarifying the meaning and context of social movements”

Tuesday, September 17 (public)

17:00–18:30 Introduction and presentations by the invitees (van Kessel and Bringel)
18:30–19:30 Discussion (moderator: Elísio Macamo; discussants: tbd)
From 19:30 Apéro & Concert

Wednesday, September 18 (approx. 8 participants per workshop)

9:00–12:00 Workshop 1 Workshop 2
12:00–14:00 Lunch Break
14:00–16:30 Workshop 1 Workshop 2
16:30–17:15 Coffee Break
17:15–18:30 Closing Plenary Session