Dissertation Abstracts

Strategic demand-making and the cost of protest: Indigenous movements and protest outcomes in Latin America

Author: Krausova, Anna , anna.krausova@sociology.ox.ac.uk
Department: Sociology
University: University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Supervisor: Prof. Leigh Payne
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: protest events , social movements , indigenous politics , Latin America
Areas of Research: Social Classes and Social Movements , Racism, Nationalism and Ethnic Relations , Political Sociology


Contentious action continues to attract academic attention; but whether it matters remains equally contentious. While research on social movements has burgeoned since the 1960s, social movement outcomes—unlike emergence—have received relatively scant attention. This thesis contributes to the study of social movement outcomes by combining (1) a quantitative analysis of an original dataset of indigenous protest activity in Latin America between 2004 and 2013 with (2) a qualitative investigation of indigenous movement organisations in Bolivia and Ecuador. It does so in order to answer the central research question: What explains the divergence of outcomes of indigenous movements in Latin America?

The burgeoning literature on indigenous movements in Latin America has focused on small-N qualitative studies, usually of individual countries or specific movements, rarely questioning the idea that successes relating to indigenous rights were a direct result of indigenous protest activity. Conversely, one of the main academic debates about social movements is not only whether social movements in general and individual protest events in particular matter, but also whether the level of their success is contingent on their actions and strategies, or determined by outside factors that social movements and their organisations have little or no control over.

Providing support for the direct-effect hypothesis, the cross-national study suggests that both the type of demands and the tactics indigenous protesters make have an important impact on the chances of experiencing positive outcomes. Specifically, this operates through the imposition of an economic cost on the state; while tactics with a greater economic cost are more likely to lead to success, demands with a higher economic cost are less likely to be met. This suggest the need to take an agential approach and consider the strategic choices made by social movement participants. Moreover, this research highlights not only the importance of strategic demand making overall, but also how its relevance can be heightened under particular conditions, evidencing the indirect-effect hypothesis. One of the findings suggest that, overall, making redistributive demand somewhat negatively affects the chances of gaining a positive outcome. However, indigenous protests making redistributive claims have a much higher likelihood of success under left-of-centre governments, while under right-wing regimes their success rate is reduced.

These results set the stage for the qualitative fieldwork that forms the second part of this mixed-method project, allowing for a more robust analysis of the causal mechanisms at play. In particular, the role of strategic demand-making must be unpacked, tracing the causality between the nature of the political environment and the demands made by indigenous protesters. Moreover, applying an in-depth lens to indigenous movements allows one to look at the impacts of organisational, historical and leadership-related factors that cannot be captured through quantitative look at individual protest events. In operationalising a mixed-method analysis of outcomes of indigenous social movements in Latin America, this research contributes to our understanding of both indigenous politics and the consequences of social protest.

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