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Tactical Reproduction in the Pro-Choice Movement in Northern Ireland: Alliance for Choice’s Path Towards Successful Tactics

Sat, August 12, 2:30 to 3:30pm, Palais des congrès de Montréal, Level 5, 517B

Abstract

Throughout the fall of 2014, Derry-based pro-choice activists in Northern Ireland held several meetings and organised a solidarity vigil as well as an action for the International Day for the Decriminalization of Abortion. The two tactics they used for these awareness-raising actions, namely the shoes and the wash line, were pre-existing tactics, used twice during the fall of 2014 in the same city and within a short period of time. In spite of a changing context and key events unfolding in the summer befor the fall of 2014, activists had surprisingly rapid decision-making processes during group meetings and often suspiciously all agreed of which tactics to use.

This case thus poses the question of continuity in social movements’ contentious practices. Why did they reproduce two specific tactics in the fall of 2014? While tactical reproduction is inherent to the concept of repertoire, what forces are at play in AfC’s decision to use previously developed tactics? Based on ethnographic data collected during the fall of 2014 with Alliance for Choice – Derry, by bringing together both material and cultural factors, I argue that path dependency (Pierson 2000) allows to explain the group’s decision to reproduce two specific people-oriented tactics. In doing so, I wish to show the ways in which cultural both constrains and enables activists tactical choices given limited material resources.

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