“Black Lives Matter Protests Amidst a Global Pandemic: A Case for the Recognition of Unaligned Participants in Contemporary Social Movements,” LaGina Gause, UCSD

Event time: 
Wednesday, November 8, 2023 - 12:00pm to 1:15pm
Institution for Social and Policy Studies (PROS77 ), A002 See map
77 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Event description: 


Abstract: The 2020 Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests were among U.S. history’s largest, most widespread protests. Traditional explanations explain some but not all of the massive mobilization. We argue that the size and breadth of the protests were enhanced by the global COVID-19 pandemic and a notable presence of what we call unaligned participants – people who protest with a social movement but do not express support for it. Findings from two national surveys of protesters and non-protesters indicate that being a BLM supporter and financially impacted by the pandemic were strong predictors of protest attendance. There was also a substantial presence of unaligned participants mobilized for reasons secondary to BLM’s concerns over racial justice and police brutality. We contend that unaligned participation is a natural byproduct of contemporary social movements and has important implications for understanding the mobilization and influence of contemporary protest behavior.

LaGina Gause is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of California San Diego. Her research explores the political power and representation of marginalized groups in the United States, including low-income and racial and ethnic minoritized communities. Her research has been published in leading political science journals and supported by funders, including the National Science Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation.

Her award-winning book, The Advantage of Disadvantage (Cambridge University Press, 2022), demonstrates that protest is a valuable political tool for politically marginalized groups. In fact, legislators are most supportive of protest by disadvantaged populations, including Black, Latinx, and low-income protesters. It was awarded the 2023 Richard F. Fenno Jr. Prize for the best book in legislative studies. It was also awarded the 2023 Best Book Award from the Race and Ethnic Politics Section for the best book on race, ethnicity, and representation.

Dr. Gause received her Ph.D. in Public Policy and Political Science, and her M.A. in Political Science from the University of Michigan. She received her B.A. from Howard University. And she was a Democracy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School.

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