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The European Union and Beyond

Facing Repression with Silence: How a Movement’s Cultural Dynamics affect Responses – and Resilience – to Repression

Contentious Politics
Political Violence
Social Movements
Rune Ellefsen
Universitetet i Oslo
Rune Ellefsen
Universitetet i Oslo

Research which examines the singular effect of repression on mobilization, or vice versa, has produced a vast amount of research with contradictory and diverging results. This paper ventures beyond such singular effects by, rather, examining interactive processes involving transgressive protestors and agents of repression with an aim to enhance explanations of repression’s impact on protest. Repression will most likely influence the decisions of protest groups on whether and how to continue their efforts, where the characteristics of the group itself – e.g., its internal activist culture – will play a major role in how they respond. A theory of repression, as Linden and Klandermanns (2006) claims, must therefore include accounts of how individuals cope with, and respond to, repression. These factors are often left out in the research on protest-repression. This paper aims to contribute to filling those gaps through a case study of one radical social movement campaign in Britain: Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC). The paper analyze SHAC organizer’s retrospections about experiences of repression, the internal culture amongst activist organizers and their assessments and choices of how to respond to the repression they faced. The analysis aims to account for the movement-internal cultural dynamics that impacted SHAC’s response, and thus also its resilience, to repression – and how this largely meant activists were left to cope with repression individually. The paper demonstrates why the factor of how transgressive protestors responds to repression is decisive to the eventual outcome of repression.
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