Comparative Politics

B09 - Ideology and Patterns of Mobilization

Date: Jun 13 | Time: 08:30am to 10:00am | Location:

Chair/Président/Présidente : Muhammad Bilal Shakir (McGill University)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Rose Chabot (McGill University)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Francesco Cavatorta (Laval University)

Since the turn of the 20th century, ideology has taken center stage for analysts and practitioners worldwide. This panel focuses on the relationship between ideology and mobilization and how it operates across a discrete set of variables by examining it using various methods across an empirical sweep spanning four diverse world regions. For Latin America, Rose Chabot utilizes qualitative methods, such as in-depth interviews, to analyze how social coalitions mobilize against gender-based violence in Argentina. Her paper addresses how popular sector women’s organizations navigate the constraints imposed by their sociopolitical environment as they mobilize in feminist struggles. For North Africa, Hiba Zerrougui illuminates the meaning of ordinary people’s involvement in contestation in Algeria. She analyzes accounts of 2937 protests (1999-2019) to underline that everyday life is a semiotic framework that makes sense of contestation that would otherwise be dismissed as expressions of rent-seeking, anomie, or inchoate democratization attempts. For Europe, Andrey Davydov measures and demonstrates the adoption of pro-ethnonational narratives by the Russian regime. He uses quantitative methods, such as computational text analysis, on over 4000 transcripts of four important political talk shows over six years. For South Asia, Muhammad Bilal Shakir uses the case of Islamist parties in Pakistan to emphasize that fragmentation arising from religious cleavages and electoral rules is a key factor explaining the underperformance of ideologically committed parties with outsized social influence relative to electoral strength. The paper uses mixed methods, including qualitative interviews and statistical models, to buttress its claims. Francesco Cavatorta is discussant of the panel.

Explaining Islam’s Electoral Disadvantage: The Social and Electoral Mobilization of Islamist Parties in Pakistan (1947-2023): Muhammad Bilal Shakir (McGill University)
Abstract: What explains the electoral underperformance of some ideologically committed political parties with outsized social influence and policy sway relative to their electoral performance versus others? This paper finds that such “de-aligned mobilization” can be depicted along the dimension of “structural fragmentation,” which captures a party's structural constraints in its operations that prevent it from achieving mass electoral success. It encompasses the constraints imposed by the social structure, principally religious cleavages, that impinge on an Islamist party's agency to reorient its electoral strategy by changing its party positions and creating new cleavages more favourable to it electorally. Using the case of Islamist parties in Pakistan, a country of 220 million people, the paper emphasizes that fragmentation from religious cleavages impinges on the Islamist electoral vote and is crucial to explaining the de-aligned mobilization of Islamist parties in Pakistan. Moreover, I hypothesize that the electoral system and rules can be a confounder in explaining the variation between structural fragmentation and social and electoral mobilization. These confounders shape mobilization by influencing vote fragmentation, particularly for Islamist parties with extensive social networks. I use government and local newspaper reports from the 1940s onwards, 11 months of fieldwork data encompassing 60 semi-structured interviews at the elite level and two focus groups at the non-elite level, ethnographic insights, and the most comprehensive novel dataset on electoral outcomes of Islamist parties in Pakistan to buttress my claims.

“We are Feminists but First, we Belong to the Community”: Popular Feminisms against Gender-Based Violence and Dilemmas of Collective Action in Argentina: Rose Chabot (McGill University)
Abstract: For the past three decades, Argentina has witnessed the expansion of popular women’s movements mobilized for the most marginalized sectors of society to gain access to basic goods and services. Simultaneously, feminist movements that explicitly challenge traditional gender norms and patriarchal institutions have grown massively. Unfolding in the context of the “Left Turn”, these new alliances between lower-sector women’s movements and historically middle-class feminist movements has been labeled by Graciela Di Marco (2010) as “the feminist people” (“el pueblo feminista”); a nodal point for rethinking subjected groups’ belonging in a collective, radical democratic project. The growing ties between these movements and the coalitions they have formed surrounding violence against women and abortion in the recent years—involved putting in tension the boundaries of their political community, as well as negotiating the targeted “problems” and “solutions” guiding their demands towards the state. How do women and women’s organizations from popular sectors navigate the constraints imposed by their sociopolitical environment as they engage in feminist struggles? Focusing on women’s non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that work on gender-based violence and feminicide, this paper relies on in-depth interviews and extensive fieldwork in three Argentine provinces conducted between 2020 and 2022. This paper puts forth that popular-sector women’s organizations navigate the dilemmas of collective action by engaging strategically in the “politics of belonging” to secure policy and social gains from different communities.

“Ethnonationalism for Them, Multinationality for Us”: The Rise of International Radical Right Rhetoric in Russia's Domestic Official Discourse.: Andrey Davydov (McGill University)
Abstract: To domestic audiences, the Russian government projects two seemingly contradictory stances on ethnic nationalism. The regime supports radical right anti-immigrant, Islamophobic, and anti-BLM stances for Western European and North American contexts. At the same time, it pursues a moderate image on immigration and ethnic diversity at home. It punishes open ethnic nationalism, stresses that Russia is a ‘multinational country’, avoids open domestic anti-immigration rhetoric, and bans radical right parties. The official rhetoric is consistent across contexts on other radical right topics such as anti-feminism or homophobia, but not on topics related to ethnicity. To measure and demonstrate the gradual adoption of pro-ethnonationalist narratives and terms by the regime, the paper uses computational text analysis on over 4000 transcripts of four important political shows over a period of six years. Political talk shows are a crucial tool used by the regime in Russia to disseminate its stances. They are highly reflective of the messages it wishes to broadcast (Sharafutdinova 2021). This analysis serves as the first stage of a project that seeks to explore the effects of the regime’s inconsistent rhetoric on the different ideological strands of the Russian opposition, ranging from social democrats to the extreme right. The second stage, based on interviews with activists, will examine if this rhetoric demobilises the opposition by making it less hostile to the regime and fragments it by making activists more hostile to other ideological strands of the opposition.

Protesting as Everyday Life: Making Sense of Ordinary People’s Engagement with the Street in Bouteflika’s Algeria (1999-2019): Hiba Zerrougui (McGill University)
Abstract: Depictions of ordinary people protesting have been romanticized and demonized in Algeria. The ‘popular’ is defended, in a republic that, for many, owns its independence not to an elite but to ordinary people who took to the street in 1960. Algerian people also confronted their armies’ tanks in 1988, paving the way to constitutional changes. In 2019, popular protests ultimately ended President Bouteflika’s tenure. Ordinary people, when they massively mobilize, can upset deeply rooted oppressive systems. These same Algerians have been disciplined to doubt their own power. Described as unrest, protests have been used as a justification for regime’s repressive measures. Protests are the subject of ‘catastrophizing’ policies; state warns that any ‘unrest’ will lead to chaos. When ordinary people take to the streets, with few notable exceptions, they become crowds: undisciplined, unpredictable, emotional… Scholarship depicted contestation with a similar pessimistic lens: as a history of near misses, an anomic cry against contempt (hogra); a reflection of civil society’s difficulties to generate meaningful change; or a sign that the regime can outwit the street. Since the hirak, there has been an attempt to rethink this. This paper interrogates the meaning given to ordinary people’s involvement in contestation. Based on an analysis of accounts of 2937 protests (1999-2019), I find that everyday life is a semiotic framework that make sense of contestation that would otherwise be dismissed as expressions of rent-seeking; anomie; or inchoates democratization attempts. Protesting as everyday life brings seemingly distinct contestation into a singular intelligible political phenomenon.