CfP: The Transnationality of Social Movements (Event: 05/2010, Leuven); DL: 31.10.2009

History department, Free University of Brussels (VUB); research unit MoSA, Catholic University of Leuven (K.U.Leuven)

Zeit: 21.-22.05.2010
Ort: Leuven (Belgium)
Deadline: 31.10.2009

In recent years, an interdisciplinary community of scholars has engaged in a debate about the transnational scope of social movements with an international focus. The anti-apartheid movement is considered by some as a trailblazer of present-day protest against neoliberal globalization, climate change, etc. Many of the current “anti-globalization” movements’ features, such as transnational cooperation, the use of media, and the mobility of activists, are said to have been prefigured by this important social movement of the Cold War era. Others argue that the nation state was, and still remains, the primal context of social movement mobilization. Despite common political goals, cultural symbols, patterns of protest, and synchronization of mobilization waves, and antipathy against the U.S., the peace movements in the 1980s, for instance, are presented by many as primarily national phenomena. The solidarity movements that were sparked by the crisis of the Polish communist regime are discussed in similar terms.

These debates are part ofa larger debate on “globalization” and the role of NGOs therein. In an effort to historicise this process, a host of scholars are re-examining the projects of “internationalism” that have been propagated by NGOs and within inter-governmental bodies since the later decades of the nineteenth century. Far from being a straightforward affair of spatial reconfiguration, this turn towards architectures of “global governance” has spawned many complementary and competing projects under the rubric of Westernization, Europeanization, Third Worldism, etc. The conference aims to gather historians and social scientists having an expertise in the study of social movements in order to discuss the issues of national differentiation, cross-border cooperation and transnational identity construction. It is especially concerned with transnational contact within the Atlantic World of Europe and northern America and aims to analyze social movement structures, networks, identities, and praxis. It encourages comparative analyses of a diachronical or synchronical nature. Papers that elaborate on a more theoretical level are particularly welcomed.

Possible questions for analysis

  • Is it possible to discern longer-term cycles of grassroots mobilization and social movement institutionalization?
  • What are the differences between the contributions of “older” social movements (e.g. labour and church organizations) and “newer”, more specialized social movement organizations?
  • Should certain transnational “moments of change” (1884, 1917, 1945, 1968, and 1989) be regarded as thresholds in a widening and deepening process of globalization?
  • Why did certain geographical regions or international issues develop into focal points of social movement mobilization?
  • Have current social movements made a faithful leap from internationalism to globalism?


  • organized by the history department at the VUB & the research unit MoSA at K.U.Leuven
  • The conference is scheduled in May 2010
  • Selected papers will be published in Revue Belge de Philologie et d’Histoire – Belgisch Tijdschrift voor Filologie en Geschiedenis, accepting contributions in English, French, Dutch or German

Applicants should submit a 500 word proposal and a brief C.V. (in Word or PDF format) before 31 October 2009 to Mr. Kim Christiaens . Participants whose papers have been accepted will be notified by 30 November 2009.

Please send all queries to the same address.

Kim Christiaens

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