Sociologists who study social movements note that the tactics available to activists are shaped by the activism that has proceeded them. We call this a “repertoire of contention,” or a set of tools available to any activist that most people in a society would recognize as “protest.” In most industrialized countries today, this repertoire includes things such as sit-ins, boycotts, strikes, and marches.
Repertoires of contention are shared and they pass from one social movement to another. The sit-in, for example, was invented by civil rights U.S. labor activists, but all types of activists use sit-ins today (perhaps most memorably by the civil rights movement). Sidney Tarrow calls this kind of tactic “modular.” It can be borrowed from one kind of activism and applied to many different causes. Similarly, protest tactics can in one country can be borrowed and applied in another, so long as the conditions for activism are similar.
I was reminded of this theory of modular protest tactics when fds and Mordicai K. sent us this link to photographs from a protest by the Alliance for Animal Rights in Russia. Like the protests PETA in the U.S. and Animals Awake in the Netherlands, this Russian protest personifies animals as (mostly) women and then displays them brutally murdered. I think the trio (Russia, the Netherlands, and the U.S.), together, is an interesting example of the way that a social movement tactic can travel transnationally.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.