The American Indian movement and the Black Panther party compared: violence, the state and social movements in the USA, 1966 to 1976
Cronin, Míceál Daniel
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The concepts of liberal democracy and pluralism evoke themes relating to justice, parity of esteem and the right of equal protection under the law. At the centre of these tenets is a state that is deemed to be both the primary anchor and promoter of such ideals. My research explores how the historical experience of African and Native Americans in the USA departs from such standards. There is much evidence to indicate that state and structural and racial violence have consistently oppressed African and Native American populations. In the 1960s, in a context of social and political upheaval, two movements were formed to address this oppression. These were the American Indian Movement (AIM) and the Black Panther Party (BPP). Each of these movements advanced a notion of racial empowerment as they emerged against the wider backdrop that was the civil rights struggle. This thesis conducts a comparative analysis of AIM and the BPP. The interactive effects of external violence on the two movements’ mobilisation and persistence are examined across the life-cycle stages of formation, development and decline. My theoretical framework is underpinned by social movement theory. Three specific social movement theoretical approaches are utilised: framing theory, resource mobilisation theory, and the theory that highlights the importance of political opportunity structures. These approaches are employed in considering movement similarities and differences during each of the three life-cycle stages. Social movement theory has tended historically to concentrate on groups promoting liberal reforms. My research offers an opportunity to assess how well framing theory, resource mobilisation theory and political opportunity structure theory can account for two movements that utilised armed tactics. The key theoretical objective of this study is to outline how well each of three social movement frameworks can illuminate why violence became central to the framing of movement grievances, how violent tactics became a central resource, and how violence became a critical factor in the opening and closing of political opportunities. State violence as a key determinant in movement emergence and decline has also been a historically neglected topic of social movement research. The radicalising effects of state-based and state-backed violence on social movement appearance, development and demise are elements my research highlights. The contribution of this thesis is to elucidate the effects of external violence on the life-cycle of two particular social movements while also addressing some shortcomings relating to violence as a resource in social movement mobilisation.
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