Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion: Violence and Civil Society


Dr. Andrew K. Thompson, Ithaca College

Prof. Christian Davenport, University of Michigan

Prof. Donatella della Porta, Scuola Normale Superiore

Moderated by Prof. John Krinsky, City University of New York

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The concept of “civil society” has a long and varied career. Often used to refer to the kinds of civic associationalism that is necessary for democracy to flourish, it has equally often been understood as a battleground for consent, and not nearly as distinct from the violence at the center of state projects as democratic theorists might imagine. In similar fashion, the term “social movements” has often denoted a mainly nonviolent protest repertoire of contention, such that scholars could chart the rise of the social movement closely with the rise of liberal democracy. And yet scholars of movements would also never suggest that coercion is ever far away from social movements, even at their most ostensibly nonviolent. Further, it can be argued that any contest of political power, even those that take shape in the more associational spheres of politics, necessarily involves some measure of, or dream of coercion and violence. The current discussions of property damage, movement-countermovement violence, and the roles of organization among protesters and forms of policing by the state all touch on these more basic issues. In the inaugural session of the Society and Protest workshop at the CUNY Graduate Center our panel will discuss how scholars can interrogate interactions between civil society, social movements, and violence in our contemporary period.

About the Panelists:


Andrew K. Thompson is a Visiting Professor of Social Movements and Social Change at teh Department of Sociology, Ithaca College. Primary research interests include Social Movements and Social Change, Critical Theory, and Visual Culture


Christian Davenport is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan as well as a Faculty Associate at the Center for Political Studies and Research Professor at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). Primary research interests include political conflict (e.g., human rights violations, genocide/politicide, torture, political surveillance, civil war and social movements), measurement, racism and popular culture.


Donatella Della Porta isprofessor of political science, dean of the Faculty  of Political and Social Sciences  and Director of the PhD program in Political Science and Sociology at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Florence, where she also leads the Center on Social Movement Studies (Cosmos). Among the main topics of her research: social movements, political violence, terrorism, corruption, the police and protest policing.


John Krinsky is associate professor of political science, with an interest in labor and community organizing in New York. He specializes in urban politics, the politics of social movements, and the politics of work, welfare and labor.

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