How should we go about implementing Protest Event Anaysis data collection in four countries? Are we clear about our definition of protest event? How should we deal with missing data, description bias and conflicting reports? How exactly does 'size matter' in the collection of data on protests (Biggs 2016)? Can we meaningfully compare countries across the South and East of Europe? Do political contexts which are more open to social movements see less protests because multiple avenues for participation 'take the steam out of protest'? These, and many other questions were raised at the first international meeting on Disobedient Democracy project, which was held in Zagreb at the Faculty of Political Science, on June 16, 2017.
Grzegorz Ekiert (Harvard University) and Jan Kubik (UCL SSEES) presented the most recent findings from their project The Logic of Civil Society: Contentious Politics in New Democracies, sharing insights about the use of PEA as a method, the methodology of paired comparisons, and many other aspects of studying contention. Uwe Serdult (C2D Aarau) presented recent research findings on the growth of direct democratic institutions around the world, focusing on trends for Eastern Europe as well as the little-researched instrument of recall. The discussion particularly highlighted the specific dynamic that the use of direct democratic instruments in local level politics may have vis-a-vis overall levels of contention and features of party competition. It was also repeatedly emphasized how the dynamics of contention on the political Right, as well as the role of the state in mobilizing contention, are understudied.
Tiago Fernandes reviewed research on contention and the features of social movements in Portugal, as well as some more recent research that he took part in – like for instance Donatella Della Porta's project Late Neoliberalism and its Discontents in the Economic Crisis Comparing Social Movements in the European Periphery, which compares several countries on the European periperhy. Eduardo Romanos presented his research on diffusion of repertoires between the anarchist movement and the Indignados in Spain, as well as between the Indignados and Occupy Wall street. Another of his current projects is focused on technological activism in the new political platforms in Madrid and Barcelona.
Overall, the meeting provided key inputs for the finalization of the PEA protocol, as the necessary step for the implementation of test coding in June 2017.