Van de Velde, C. (2022). The power of slogans: using protest writings in social movement research. Social Movement Studies, 1-20.
This article explores the theoretical and empirical interest of protest slogans and writings for social movement research. It shows how this material can contribute to a better understanding of collective identities, emotions, and claims made in contemporary demonstrations. Theoretically, it invites researchers to go beyond the actual ‘words’ to invest these slogans as political performances: increasingly individualized and diversified, these writings carry a public staging and a political discourse that can address multiple audiences. Therefore, they give access to the individual and collective voices expressed within contemporary social movements – and the way they interplay. To take into account their diversity, the article proposes a typology of the main political functions of these writings – whether they aim to lay claims, to proclaim, to mobilize or to witness, which will determine their very form and their favored support. Secondly, the article revisits the ethical and methodological issues raised by the collection and analysis of protest writings for the empirical study of social movements. It examines different ways of mining their potential for comparison and mixed method device, through either textual, visual or qualitative analysis. To do so, it draws on the experience and results of an international study of youth social movements in the second decade of the twenty-first century, to which this method was widely applied to identify and compare the fundamental rhetorics of these post-2008 protests.