Mobilizing under the gun: Theorizing political opportunity structure in a highly repressive setting

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Although episodes of contentious politics in undemocratic regimes constitute the lion's share of contentious political events worldwide, the theorizing of political opportunity structures is based largely on contentious episodes in democratic/liberal political settings. This anomaly hampers recent attempts to redefine the boundaries among episodes of contention across time and place. Employing the case of the first Palestinian Intifada (1987-1992), I critically examine three theoretical aspects of political opportunity structures (POS): (1) how the link between POS, strateg, and tactics is forged; (2) how different levels of POS interact; and (3) the ability of multiactor movements to cope with the shifting nature of POS. I conclude by briefly illustrating the relevance of my findings to other structurally similar cases, and discuss the implications of my analysis for further sensitization of the Dynamics of Contention research program.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)219-237
Number of pages19
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank Mr. Adrian Ichim from CCRC engine lab for help in performing the engine experiments. The research reported in this publication was supported by funding from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and Saudi Aramco under FUELCOM program.


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