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From Daraa to Damascus: Regional and Temporal Protest Variation in Syria

Cavallo, Shena (2012) From Daraa to Damascus: Regional and Temporal Protest Variation in Syria. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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When protest erupted in Syria on March 2011, there was considerable analysis seeking to explain the initial display of collective action. While this initial showing of dissent caught some off-guard, what was more remarkable is how the protest movement managed to endure, well over a year, despite policies of severe repression, a lack of established opposition organizations, and a lack of regime defections. This paper seeks to explore which factors have sustained the protest movement, as well as the role of these factors at different stages in the ‘protest wave’ and the relationship these variables share with region-specific waves of protest. I hypothesize that more traditional approaches to understanding protest longevity must be expanded in order to help explain contemporary events of protest, particularly in authoritarian contexts. The time and space aspects, also, must be considered because protest must attain a certain critical mass (in terms of participants, frequency, and dispersion) to present a unified front against an incumbent regime. I utilize a qualitative analysis in which social movement theory is applied to the Syrian case and also use panel data to test my hypotheses concerning the variables I believe to be relevant in Syria, at different stages in the ‘protest wave’ and in different regions of the country. Both the quantitative and qualitative approaches indicate that there have been several critical elements at play which helped to compensate for the relative lack of resources and opportunities. These factors involve the role of personal networks, collective identity, and the likelihood of success. Protest, however, cannot be explained by simply looking at a movement because bystanders and government actors also matter. The government’s policy of repression played a critical role insofar as it was relatively indiscriminate across regions and among various demographics. This factor helped to facilitate a process in which more Syrians came to identity and, consequently, sympathize with the fallen protesters, creating a multiplier effect. In this way, repression is not simply a factor which may increase or decrease protest, but also a critical opportunity which conveys information about the regime that may have otherwise remained hidden.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Cavallo, Shenaslc115@pitt.eduSLC115
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairCondra, Luke N. lcondra@pitt.eduLCONDRA
Committee MemberMurtazashvili, Iliaimurtaz@pitt.eduIMURTAZ
Committee MemberNelson, Paul J. pjnelson@pitt.eduPJNELSON
Committee MemberKokten-Finkel, M. Mügemfinkel@pitt.eduMFINKEL
Date: 27 September 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 23 May 2012
Approval Date: 27 September 2012
Submission Date: 16 August 2012
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 156
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Graduate School of Public and International Affairs > Public and International Affairs
Degree: MA - Master of Arts
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Protest; social movements; Middle East; Syria; repression; diffusion; Arab Spring
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2012 17:00
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:02


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