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date: 21 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Activists use stories to mobilize participants, enlist supporters, and influence decision makers. But their stories are only sometimes effective in doing those things. We draw on an interdisciplinary literature on narrative in order to identify features of stories that lend themselves to different tasks of mobilization and to identify the specifically institutional dynamics that often prevent activists from telling the stories they want to tell. We also discuss stories’ role in shaping the stakes on behalf of which people protest, and in shaping movements’ prospects for success. Finally, we identify methodological problems associated with treating activists’ stories as a window onto movement processes, and suggest ways around those problems.

Keywords: narrative, storytelling, culture, institutions, collective identity, media

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