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Banging on Closed Doors or Beating the Drum? Social Movements’ Interpretations of Opportunities in Legal Appeal Processes
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Social Sciences, Technology and Arts, Social Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8529-3863
2023 (English)In: Social Movement Studies, ISSN 1474-2837, E-ISSN 1474-2829Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Social movements and interest groups in Europe are increasingly using litigation as a form of legal mobilization in their campaigns. Current literature often depicts this as a result of favourable opportunities in movements’ legal contexts, with activists responding to rising prospects of legal success. This comparative study of fifteen cases of mobilizations against mineral exploration projects in Sweden explores a puzzle in relation to this view: Why do movements frequently litigate even when the prospects of legal success seem non-existent? Using frame analysis within a multi-institutional politics (MIP) approach, this study explores how movements interpret opportunities in appeal processes linked to mineral exploration projects. While confirming that the prospect of legal success is a relevant motivator in several cases, the results also indicate that some movements interpret the court as a democratic arena, presenting opportunities to mobilize adherents and signal popular resistance to policy makers and extractive companies. These diverging interpretations of the court are tentatively connected to organizational needs for mobilizing adherents, previous experiences of litigating and available institutional logics in society. Building upon the MIP approach, this study introduces the idea that the democratic understanding of the appeal process signifies a ‘creative infringement’. A democratic institutional logic is imported into the court, an arena typically dominated by an institutional legal-bureaucratic logic. Movements’ increasing use of litigation may thus be driven not only by goals of legal success, but also by creative reinterpretations of legal processes as arenas in which goals of popular participation and democracy may be achieved.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2023.
Keywords [en]
Social movement strategy, structure and agency, frame analysis, multi-institutional politics, legal mobilization, creative infringement
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies)
Research subject
Political Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-95558DOI: 10.1080/14742837.2023.2171386Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85147718425OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ltu-95558DiVA, id: diva2:1735336
Funder
Swedish Research CouncilAvailable from: 2023-02-08 Created: 2023-02-08 Last updated: 2024-04-16
In thesis
1. Strategies and Actions in Swedish Mining Resistance: Mapping Anti-Extraction Movements and Exploring How Their Interpretations of Socio-Political Context Shape Mobilization Against Mining Projects
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Strategies and Actions in Swedish Mining Resistance: Mapping Anti-Extraction Movements and Exploring How Their Interpretations of Socio-Political Context Shape Mobilization Against Mining Projects
2024 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Strategier och agerande i svenskt gruvmotstånd : En kartläggning av motståndsrörelser och hur deras tolkningar av socio-politisk kontext formar mobilisering mot gruvprojekt
Abstract [en]

Across the world, the demand for minerals is steadily increasing. In Europe, the push for mining coincides with rising public mobilization against extraction projects, and mining-related conflicts will likely be a feature of Europe’s foreseeable future. To understand the trajectories of mining conflicts, and to find just ways of handling them, it is important to understand the strategies and actions of the networks of actors that oppose extraction projects, that is, anti-extraction movements. 

While previous research has primarily explored mining resistance in the Global South, our knowledge about mining resistance in Europe is lacking. I contribute to filling this gap by investigating anti-extraction movements in Sweden, a long-term producer of minerals. The aim of the thesis is thus to explore what strategies and actions anti-extraction movements in Sweden use and how and why they choose them. I use social movement theory and emphasize how choices of strategies and actions are shaped by the socio-political context in which movements are embedded. With the help of frame analysis and an interpretive research approach, I explore how movement actors’ interpretations of contextual opportunities and constraints shape their actions, thus contributing to the ongoing research debate about how surrounding societal actors and institutions influence movement agency. 

In four papers, building on an extensive document analysis and interviews with movement actors, I systematically map and analyse anti-extraction movements in Sweden and provide in-depth studies of selected cases. I ask two research questions: 1. What anti-extraction movements are there in Sweden, in what socio-political contexts are they embedded, and what actions have they taken? 2. How do anti-extraction movements’ goals and interpretations of contextual opportunities and constraints shape their strategies and actions?

The thesis presents the first comprehensive mapping of anti-extraction movements in Sweden and shows that mining resistance has increased across Sweden during the last two decades. My results reveal that movements use a wide range of actions, from civil disobedience and public demonstrations to litigation and political lobbying, and are composed of heterogeneous mixes of actors, including newly formed activist networks, organizations for farmers and Indigenous Sámi, and environmental organizations. Movements promote several visions for societal development, including environmental protection and sustainability, Sámi Indigenous rights and culture, and landowners’ rights and agriculture. In international comparison, the Swedish anti-extraction movements to a larger extent aim to influence political and legal actors and place less emphasis on project owners and corporate investors. 

Regarding how socio-political context shapes strategies and actions, my results indicate that movement actors’ interpretations of contextual opportunities do not always align with researchers’ understandings of what an opportunity is, thus producing unexpected actions. Movement actors’ interpretations of opportunities and constraints are found to be influenced by their goals, their comparisons of available options, their previous experiences, and their role in relation to other actors in the movement. 

My research shows that socio-political context often influences movement actors’ strategies and actions via their interpretations of opportunities and constraints for achieving goals. My results also suggest that socio-political context shapes movement actors’ strategies and actions by presenting them with appropriate ways to act in society. Lastly, my studies indicate that additional factors, including movement actors’ action traditions and identities, resources, and the diffusion of strategies, can influence movement actors’ interpretations of contextual opportunities and strategies and actions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Luleå: Luleå University of Technology, 2024
Series
Doctoral thesis / Luleå University of Technology 1 jan 1997 → …, ISSN 1402-1544
Keywords
social movement strategy, tactics, structure and agency, opportunities and constraints, goals, mining, frame analysis
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies) Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-105132 (URN)978-91-8048-538-8 (ISBN)978-91-8048-539-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2024-06-13, A109, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2024-04-17 Created: 2024-04-16 Last updated: 2024-05-15Bibliographically approved

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Fjellborg, Daniel

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