Short Course: Understanding the French Yellow vest movement through the Lens of mixed methods

Understanding the French Yellow vest movement through the Lens of mixed methods

Full Day, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Washington State Convention Center, Room 606

Almost three years after its outbreak, the Yellow Vest movement remains a socio-political event which questions our understanding of contemporary social movements and of the French social and political landscape.
The yellow vest movement appears as a rich case study to understand the inner dynamic of social movements but also the evolution of contemporary forms of collective action in the past ten years. It also challenges classical assumptions about participation, contentious repertoire, media coverage and protest events. As other recent movements, it is spontaneous mobilization which has not been supported by any social movement organization, and which has been building itself (its claims, songs, forms of actions and organization, identities of reference) incrementally during the protest itself (and consequently requires a processual approach).
It is also a multi-faceted phenomenon where relative innovations in the use of action repertory have been shown and which has brought together new protest actors and a singular variety of activists. The Yellow vest movement has gathered individuals from various social and political backgrounds, with a very important component of popular backgrounds previously considered by scholars as distant from politics and protest action.

This mini-conference combine three perspectives:
First, it offers the opportunity to take stock of the current researches on the phenomenon. Various panels will present an overview of the knowledge recently accumulated on the movement, based on presentations of results of original field-based researches on the yellow Vests.
Second it will provide a place to exchange about methodological issues to analyze the various dimensions of a social movement which shares similarities with post-2011 protest movements; such as being spontaneous, coordinated without organizations and attracting heterogeneous types of activists.
Here, contributions based on field-studies using various qualitative and quantitative approaches will shed light on different aspects of the movement such as its activists’ profiles, its forms, dynamics and its evolution. The various sessions will then offer opportunities to discuss the respective benefits, limits and complementarity of the various methods to size social movements. This mini-conference ambition is also here to underline the relevance of mixt-methods, which on the Yellow Vest case prove to be fully complementary, and to strengthen the bridge between “French” and “US” approaches (even it both are obviously heterogeneous) of social movements, politicization processes and socio-political change.
Third, beyond the Yellow Vests movement, the sessions will bring new understanding of the contemporary evolution of the French society, especially by studying parts of its lower and lower-middle classes through various perspectives. Their relationship to politics and more largely to polity will be a main issue of these study. More generally, by comparing methodological choices and results, this mini conference wants also to make a contribution to our understanding of contemporary social movements. Finally, a new insight on contentious politics and repertoire will be provide through original data and literature discussion. Our Mini-Conference addresses three issues:

Who are yellow vest activists? (Quantitative approaches) We already know that the movement has gathered very different types of people, coming from various social backgrounds and showing different political profiles and trajectory: from far-leftist to far-rightist voters, as well as from well-experienced activists to first timers. How can quantitative approaches shed light on it and improve our understanding of the movement through a better knowledge of their members and of the movement dynamic? The panel will cross sociographical analysis of the movement produced by different methodologies that analyze the social, political and spatial dynamics of the movement.

Politicizations trough social movements. Why men and women rebel, and what effect does it have on their life? This panel will be dedicated to the understanding of individual motives of engagement and question how taking part to social movements can affect others (personal/social/political) aspects of life. Paper will focus particularly on the evolution of activist’ relationship to politics, through their discourses and practices.

How the YVM Challenges Social Movements Studies and Assumptions about Contentious Politics. This session will provide insights on the challenges posed by the YVM to our current understanding of Social Movement. Ecology is usually considered as a post-materialist issue and environmental concerns are associated with high incomes, education and social status, the YVM tend to offer another perspective on these findings. Most commentators underlined Women’s involvement in the protest, we will bring a more acute analysis on gender and YVM. Finally, uses and innovation in the repertories of action by the YVM will be question.

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