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Social Movements and Contentious Tactics


Admission requirements

  • Students must be enrolled in the CSM Master program;


Groups such as the Pegida movement in Germany, the yellow vest movement in France or the women's movement in the USA have mobilized in recent years for different political goals. In addition to the different goals, these groups also used different protest tactics, from nonviolent (e.g. sit-ins) to violent strategies. This course addresses the questions of why social movements are formed in one case but not in others; and why the activists apply certain contentious tactics. This course has two main goals:

First, the course gives an overview of the classical approaches in contentious politics and social movement research. In the first sessions, we examine the main theoretical approaches in this field, including collective action, grievances, resource mobilization, framing approaches, and political opportunity structures. Next, we discuss theories about tactical decisions, state repression, and the success / failure of social movements.

The second goal of this course is to give an overview of the data generation process. This includes the use of various data sources (e.g. policy documents, newspapers) and the methodological problems associated with the data collection process. At the end of the seminar, students should be able to critically collect and analyze empirical data.

Course objectives

  1. Students are able to identify and engage with the main theories explaining the mobilization and activities of social movements;
  2. Students are able to analyze the dynamics of social movements regarding the use of particular protest tactics, interaction with state agents, and the success or failure of the social movements;
  3. Students are able to identify and deal with practical and methodological problems related to the data generation process;
  4. Students are able to conduct empirical analyzes with data and critically reflect the explanatory power of their analyzes;
  5. Students are able to create a codebook and code sheet to collect information to study a topic related to social movements and tactical.


On the right side of programme front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Blackboard.

Mode of instruction

This course consists of four regular three-hour seminar sessions and one all-day seminar

Each seminar session is structured as follows:
1. We will discuss the different theoretical approaches in class;
2. The students will conduct their own empirical research related to the topic of the session;
3. We will discuss the challenges and lessons learned from the empirical analysis in class.

Attendance is compulsory.

Course Load

Total study load 140 hours:

  • 20 Contact hours

  • 120 Self-study hours: reading, preparing lectures, assignments, etc.

Assessment method

  • One methodological review paper (40%)

  • Creating a codebook and code sheet (60%)

Compensation rule: Only assessments with the weight lower than 30% are compensable. This means that one does not have to pass an assessment if it weighs less than 30% in order to pass the course, if the average of all assessments combined is at least a 5.5. In addition, assignments with less than 30% are not re-sitable, meaning that if one failed an assessment of less than 30%, one is not allowed to redo it. The resit takes the same form.


The corresponding Blackboard course will become available one week prior to the start of the course.

Reading list

A selection of articles. To be announced on blackboard.


Use both uSis and Blackboard to register for every course.

Register for every course and workgroup via uSis. Some courses and workgroups have a limited number of participants, so register on time (before the course starts). In uSis you can access your personal schedule and view your results. Registration in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course.


All communication should be directed to Dr. J. Vüllers