Engaging Citizens

Local Interactions, Policy Discourse and Courses of Protest against Mobile Phone Cell Site Deployment

 C. Bröera, M.B. de Graaffb, J.W. Duyvendaka, & R.A. Westera

a Department of Sociology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; b Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

European Journal for Cultural and Political Sociology DOI: 10.1080/23254823.2016.1201427 (and here).

This article puts forward an interactionist discourse approach for studying the course of local political protest. We argue that how local policy-makers engage with the (anticipated) demands of citizens and mediate national policy produces distinct framing and feeling rules about potentially controversial issues. These framing and feeling rules open up or close down opportunities for citizen concerns to develop into collective action and policy change. Our contribution refines cultural approaches to social movement theory which tend to reify national discursive contexts; focusing on local interactions in the formation of discourse allows us to better understand within-country variation in the course of contentious collective action.

We develop our argument through a comparison of 16 cases of installing mobile phone cell sites in the Netherlands. We show that the interaction between municipalities and citizens establishes a specific framing of the issue, of the role of citizens in decision-making, and of the rules concerning what citizens may legitimately feel about mobile phone masts being erected in their neighbourhoods. This gives rise to four typical patterns of engagement between municipalities and citizens.

Keywords: protest, interaction, discursive opportunities, political process, technological risk, medicalisation