Contentious Politics Workshop

Studying Politics outside & against Institutional Power

The Contentious Politics Workshop is a forum for dialogue between research students and faculty, currently from anthropology, history, politics, and sociology, with a shared interest in phenomena of political mobilisation outside and against the corridors of power. In our conceptualisation, contentious politics is a broad field ranging from traditional forms of collective action and labour mobilisation to popular resistance, armed struggle, social movements, uprisings and revolutions. We believe that this necessitates a mode of enquiry that is interdisciplinary, historicising, and spatially encompassing.

The workshop especially seeks to enable a discussion of contentious politics beyond the focus of classical "Social Movement Theory" research on well organised forms of mobilisation that “rationally” navigate a political field that is understood as liberal and democratic. We believe that, by broadening our purview theoretically as well as through empirical foci outside of Europe and North America, the field can move towards greater attention to issues that have thus far received less systematic treatment. These include, but are not limited to, (global) subaltern social groups, power in its hegemonic and discursive articulations, the role of intellectual labour, normative commitments and ideology, the formation and coherence of autonomous spaces, both materially and ideationally, as well as of the actors that populate them, and questions of creative agency.

As such, many of us seek to understand popular and contentious politics within, but as crucially holding the potential of breaking out of, structural and dispositional constraints - or hegemonic formations and subjectivities. We hope for the workshop to become a place to think about contentious politics and popular mobilisation as sites of genuine human creativity and possible alterity - rather than merely as outcomes of structural strains, political opportunities, and organisational capacities as well as predefined meanings, strategies, and forms of rationality. Due attention needs to be paid to how such potentiality gets in turn contained, co-opted, or excluded. But we believe that such a perspective holds the potential for understanding more profoundly how contentious politics can be a site of agency, history, politics, and potentially of emancipatory change.

Lent Term Programme

Thursdays 1:00-2:00pm, OLD 1.29
(The room can difficult to find. Please enquire at Old Building reception, entrance on Houghton Street, if you encounter any problems. See the campus map for more info.)


21 January
Birgan Gokmenoglu (LSE, Sociology)
Between Contention and Autonomy: A case study in the aftermath of the Gezi Movement

28 January
Reading Group
Gould, D., 2003. Passionate political processes: bringing emotions back into the study of social movements. Rethinking Social Movements: Structure, Meaning and Emotion. Lanham MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, pp.155-175.

4 February
Dr Jason Hickel (LSE, Anthropology)
(Title tbc)

11 February
Reading Group
Gould, R.V., 1995. Insurgent identities: Class, community, and protest in Paris from 1848 to the Commune. University of Chicago Press, pp. 1-31.

18 February
Reading week – no workshop meeting

25 February
Julia Zulver (Oxford, Sociology)
High Risk Feminism in Latin America: Women’s Mobilisation in Violent Contexts

3 March
Reading Group
Fantasia, R., 1989. Cultures of solidarity: Consciousness, action, and contemporary American workers. Univ of California Press, pp. 3-24, 82-93, 107-20.

10 March
Moritz Schmoll (LSE, Government)
The moral economies of tax collectors in Egypt

17 March
Reading Group
Asad, T., 1979. Anthropology and the Analysis of Ideology. Man, pp.607-627.

24 March
Mattin Biglari (SOAS, History)
Communists, Contractors and "Liquid Gold": the politics of oil and the July 1946 general strike in Khuzestan 


Join the Discussion

Members of all social science disciplines and constituent colleges of the University of London and further afield are welcome to join the workshop. We are an open forum and keen for you to get in touch with us if you are interested in attending or in presenting your work. Of course, you can also simply drop by and join one of our sessions to have a look. To be put on the mailing list and receive information about events and readings, please email Jann Boeddeling (j.boeddeling@lse.ac.uk) or Fuad Musallam (F.M.Musallam@lse.ac.uk).

Organisational Matters

The workshop functions as a reading group for research students and faculty to discuss a relevant, pre-agreed text, as well as providing a seminar space to present ongoing research. We meet every Thursday from 1:00 to 2:00 pm during LSE term times over sandwich lunch provided courtesy of the Department of Government (please check this website for updates or join our mailing list to find out about the location of the meetings in a given term). The brevity of the sessions is chosen on purpose to enable more people to join over their lunch break. However, we tend to carry our discussions forward in an informal setting after the officially allotted time. While two of us act as coordinators, there is no hierarchy in the workshop and our first session in every term is used to jointly decide what texts we want to read and discuss. This is not meant to be another “ready-for-consumption” format but a forum that reflects the interests of those who get involved and that develops together with them. So please always feel free make suggestions for readings or guest speakers!

History of the Workshop

The LSE Contentious Politics Doctoral Workshop was established in 2012 by Neil Ketchley (Oxford) and Nawal Mustafa (LSE) to provide a research space for faculty and students in and around London working on phenomena ranging from popular resistance and armed struggle to social movements and revolutions. From the beginning, the workshop’s agenda was participant-driven. And while foci have thus changed over time, the workshop’s core mission remains providing a forum that facilitates discussions which are meaningful to the research projects of its members. The workshop’s activities have included various formats enabling such discussion and exchange, including presentations of ongoing work by research students and faculty, inviting guest speakers, and a reading group. Information about past sessions can be found below.

Past events

  • 4 February 2013
    Dr. George Lawson (LSE – International Relations) – Anatomies of Revolution
  • 7 March 2013
    Professor Charles Tripp (SOAS) – The Politics of Resistance
  • 23 April 2013
    Professor Gilbert Achcar (SOAS) - The People Want? A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising
  • 27 September 2013
    Professor Sidney Tarrow (Cornell) - The Language of Contention: Revolutions in Words, 1688-201
  • 31 October 2013
    Reading Group (Marxism and Social Movement Theory)
  • 14 November 2013
    Dr Abdel Razzaq Takriti (Sheffield) - Monsoon Revolution: Republicans, Sultans, and Empires in Oman, 1965-7
  • 6 December 2013
    Dr Michael Biggs (Oxford) - The Mismeasurement of Strikes and the Distortion of Protest Trends: Evidence from Britain in the 1980s and 1990
  • 19 February 2014
    Dr Jereon Gunning (Durham) - Why Occupy a Square? People, Protest and Movements in the Egyptian Revolution
  • 23 October 2014
    Dr John Chalcraft (LSE) - Popular Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East
  • 4 February 2015
    Dr HazemKandil (Cambridge) - “Religious Determinism: Unlocking the Ideology of Muslim Brothers.”
  • 9 February 2015
    Pietro Castelli Gattinara Di Zub (Leicester) and Caterina Froio (EUI) - “Much Ado About Nothing? The Economic Crisis and the Extreme Right from Ballots to Streets.”
  • 11 February 2015
    Juan Jimenez Masullo (EUI) - "The Evolution of Noncooperation in Civil War: an Outline of a Theory.”
  • 5 March 2015
    Dr Barbara Zollner (Birbeck) - “Social Movements and Democratic Transition: Egypt and Tunisia.”
  • 16 March 2015
    Dr Neil Ketchley (Oxford) - “When Regimes Attack: Repression and Anti-Coup Mobilization in Egypt.”
  • 12 November 2015
    Yasmine Laveille (LSE, Government Department) – ‘Local Dynamics of Popular Mobilisation and Demobilisation in Upper Egypt: Ordinary Networks, Brokers and Loyalties in the Protests against Deteriorating Public Services’
  • 19 November 2015
    Reading Group: 'A Theory of Structure: Duality, Agency, and Transformation', William H. Sewell, Jr, in  'Logics of History: Social Theory and Social Transformation' (2005)
  • 26 November 2015
    Dr Andrea E. Pia (LSE, Department of Anthropology), - ‘What Rights Can't Do: Natural Resources, Contested Development and Unmet Obligations in the Yunnanese Countryside’
  • 3 December 2015
    Reading Group: 'A Theory of the Event: Marshall Sahlins's "Possible Theory of History"', William H. Sewell, Jr, in  'Logics of History: Social Theory and Social Transformation' (2005)
  • 10 December 2015
    Edmund W. Cheng  (LSE, Government Department) – ‘Neither Repression nor Concession? Hybrid Regime and Strategic Toleration in Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement’
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