How Suicide Protest Entered the Repertoire of Contention
Published: Mar 2012

As Tilly emphasizes, protesters choose from a limited 'repertoire' of tactics. By implication, most instantiations of a tactic belong to one or a few lineages, each radiating from a single invention and comprising a series of adoptions and repetitions.

This implication is tested by investigating the tactic of suicide protest: an individual kills her or himself, without harming others, to advance a collective cause. The decline in cruel public punishment and the growth of news media increased the potential of this tactic. Data are presented for the period 1919-1970. There were multiple inventions of suicide protest, but only in Japan was there a recognizable lineage before 1963. The sacrifice of a Vietnamese monk in that year created a model which was adopted in many different countries, for varied collective causes. Almost all subsequent acts of suicide protest constitute a lineage that can be traced back to this origin.

This working paper was published in December 2013 in the journal Mobilization
'How Repertoires Evolve: The Diffusion of Suicide Protest in the Twentieth Century', Mobilization, vol. 18, no. 4 (Frontiers in Social Movement Methodology), 2013, pp. 407-28.



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