Research and Methods in the Study of Social Protest: Towards a Crossdisciplinary Dialogue

Special Issue

Research and Methods in the Study of Social Protest:

Towards a Crossdisciplinary Dialogue

 Editors: Giovanni A. Travaglino, Brian Callan & Eugene Nulman

Social protest emerges from the complexity of phenomena. Structures and practices of organizations, governments, economies, armies, or interest groups may afford an opportunity for the appearance of injustice, inequity, oppression or immorality pushed too far in the minds of individuals, communities, and dispersed networks of peoples and ideas. Clearly we can learn much from a multidisciplinary approach to the wide variety of personal, socio-political and environmental factors that shape the emergence and impact of social protest.

Different traditions have developed dissimilar, and sometimes divergent, sets of analytical tools through which to explore social actions, social movements, social protest and other forms of contention. These differences are often paralleled by a priori epistemological endeavours and ontological claims about the nature of the object of study, the relevance of its proprieties, and the appropriate level of analysis.

While each of the theoretical and empirical apparatuses and their forms of expression and representation obviously have their own strengths, underlying or even unstated axioms can problematize the multidisciplinary endeavour. Indeed methodology is so central to what we do that the certainty afforded by concepts like rigour, objectivity, science, and hermeneutics may blind us to prejudices and persuasions both disciplinary and personal.  Can results be presented apart from their interpretation in anthropology? What is the meaning of ‘objective’ in sociology or psychology? Is a methodological section appropriate in a literary work?

The aim of this special issue is to offer the reader a series of papers which explores, problematizes and accounts for the different methodological ways, empirical needs and theoretical claims of different disciplines involved in the study of social protest (broadly defined). We welcome original papers from the social sciences and humanities concerning:


  • Overviews of the methods and theoretical apparatuses used within a specific research tradition or discipline
  • Examples of case studies, with strong considerations on the methodological issues raised by applied research
  • Historical analysis on the spectrum of methodologies adopted in the broad field of social protest research
  •  Critical discussions of theoretical, epistemological and methodological issues in a discipline/research tradition
  • Critical discussions on the multidisciplinary endeavor.
  • Other topics relevant to the methodological process in researching social protest, and express, diffuse this research.


Although we welcome interdisciplinary papers, work conducted within the boundaries of a single discipline is suitable for Contention. Due to the multidisciplinary audience of Contention, authors should however put efforts in explaining key terms and concepts so that these can be understood across disciplines. Papers should be formatted following the usual requirements and submitted to [email protected] by the 15th of July 2013. 

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