A number of specific research programmes and projects are using a multidisciplinary approach to probe the questions surrounding the dynamics, influence and prospects of social movements (as variously defined). The prominent programmes are located in the United Kingdom, but operate through international partnerships with other universities and research centres. Social movement research programmes and projects are found within a range of disciplines and are not concerned only with developing country contexts per se.
Social movement research potentially concerns all aspects of civil society action. To a degree this is the case, but recent social movement research focuses more centrally upon social processes, theories of communication and integration and networks. Whilst a lot of the seminal work on social movements focuses on Latin America, research in Africa and Asia tends to originate – or have a strong association with – the following social concerns:
- gender issues relating to empowerment and domination
- the religious aspects of social change
- environmental concerns
- land rights, land reform and the status of indigenous peoples
- the impact of urbanisation
Within these five inter-related themes, a survey of the research agenda suggests the following research trends:
- identity and ‘locating’ the individual and group, particularly in the context of urbanisation;
- globalisation, the breaking down of ‘traditional’ culture and the transnationalisation of socio-political issues;
- the use of science in generating knowledge and challenging assumptions;
- the relations between social movements, governments, NGOs and policymakers;
- questioning the efficacy of social movements, particularly in relation to their ability to influence the policy process.