Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Announcing the new Social Movements/Activist Research book series

Call for proposals

From resisting the new authoritarianisms to the struggle for climate justice, and from community-based activism to global social change, social movements are playing a dramatic role in the 21st century. With this has come a renewed dialogue between movement practitioners and researchers, where engaged scholars meet activist knowledge and theorising. This series aims to enable activists to “learn from each other’s struggles” and to enable radical scholarship grounded in movements’ own learning and discussions.

How do movements win and why do they lose? What enables them to move beyond their current shape, and when do they fall back? How do their ideas, structures and practices affect their outcomes? How can they best handle encounters with the state, police, corporate wealth, media and cultural privilege? What is at stake in the internal politics of movements and what can be learnt from past mistakes? What would it take for movements to bring about another world?

The Social Movements/Activist Research series brings together activist scholarship of many different kinds from around the world, covering a wide range of different disciplines, movement issues and intellectual traditions, reflected in the editorial advisory board. Books in the series speak equally to university researchers and students and to movement practitioners and a wider public. They combine the highest standards of scholarship with a deep commitment to activist and public relevance.

The series is published by Pluto Press (, an independent radical publisher based in the UK and with a long track record of publishing high-quality intellectual contributions for radical politics. Since 2018 Pluto is a social enterprise, majority-owned by a dedicated trust and with staff holding a quarter of the voting rights. Their books have always been distributed in activist as well as academic contexts and come out in paperback and ebook at the same time as hardback. Pluto are currently investing in expanding distribution in North America.


We are happy to work with new authors and those new to this kind of writing. The editing process is set up to be as supportive as possible and to bring your arguments and research out as strongly as possible. We are looking for proposals for books which:

  • Represent high-quality thinking on social movements
  • Are useful reading for well-informed activists
  • Explicitly identify the practical implications of their research or argument
  • Are written so they can be read not only by specialists but also by social movement participants, by students and academics in other fields, and a general educated audience
  • Clearly explain the context (issue, national politics, movement history etc.) so that unfamiliar readers will be able to learn from the book
  • Are consciously speaking to a wider audience. We are particularly interested in authors who are willing to make an argument for the book in activist, academic or public contexts.

Most books in the series will be 70,000 – 100,000 word “monographs” (ie a single argument running throughout). We will consider occasional edited collections. We also hope to publish some shorter books (around 50,000 words) written for a wide audience (activists, students, general public) and in more of an overview or essay style.

Please consider including some visuals that will help readers get a different sense of the subject of the book, as well as online material (eg websites, good social media accounts to follow, etc.) for people who want to go deeper.

For expressions of interest, please email both series editors: Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilsen with your idea and we can work together on developing a book proposal.

Series description

The Social Movements/Activist Research series is dedicated to engaged research on social movements, including research on street activism and online conflict, feminist and GLBTQ+ movements, ecological alternatives and radical culture, labour activism and community organising, anti-racist and indigenous politics, radical political parties and “identity politics” among others. Such forms of organising, with varying levels of institutionalisation but all involving collective participation in conflict that goes beyond the routine, are a widespread feature of the social world and raise a wide range of intellectual and ethical questions. Some of these are of very widespread public interest: how can politics, economics and culture be changed so as to effectively tackle climate change, poverty, gender inequality or racism in the face of entrenched interests and institutional inertia?

Dialogue between researchers and practitioners is an established feature of many academic fields, from nursing to architecture and from social work to design. However, while research in social movement studies naturally developed from this form of dialogue – and more specifically from student activists who became researchers in the field – the period from the later 1970s to the early 2000s saw it becoming increasingly distant from practice as this generation aged. There are field-specific reasons for this which were not shared in other disciplines, so that engaged research of many kinds is widespread in the academy (from feminism to Black Studies and from history to anthropology), often referencing social movements but rarely studying them directly. Conversely, “social movement studies” refused to pay attention to these other forms of theory and research, which it saw as largely irrelevant to its own self-understanding as a subfield.

For the past decade and a half this situation has increasingly been criticised from within social movement studies, using phrases such as movement-relevant research, activist scholarship, practitioner research, engaged research etc. while various forms of collaborative research methodologies such as feminist research, participatory action research, co-research etc. have become widespread. This approach to social movement studies is increasingly influential not only across different academic disciplines and networks, but also among funding bodies both pure and applied and in different countries. Such research does not set out to celebrate (or condemn) the movements it works with, but rather to treat their practitioners seriously in terms of their own practical / tacit knowledge as well as in relation to what are often substantial movement-linked education and training programmes, internal research and theoretical or strategic writing.

The books in this series will speak both to academic researchers and to practitioners working in these contexts – who are, increasingly, often the same individuals at different stages in their careers, as movement practitioners enter the academy and as those with graduate degrees in social movements return to activism. They will engage with the explanatory and analytical questions that are the meat and drink of any serious intellectual work; at the same time they will consistently ask what the practical implications of these discussions are, and will engage in dialogue with the debates that matter to practitioners. Without in any way dumbing down, they will be written for the multiple audiences (different academic disciplines, different movement traditions of knowledge, different countries etc.) this implies.

Series editors

Laurence Cox (Associate Professor in Sociology, National University of Ireland Maynooth. Has published Why Social Movements Matter: an Introduction, Rowman and Littlefield 2018 etc.)
Alf Gunvald Nilsen (Professor of Sociology, University of Pretoria, South Africa. Has published Adivasis and the State: Subalternity and Citizenship in India’s Bhil Heartland, Cambridge University Press 2018 etc.)

Editorial Advisory Board

John Chalcraft (Professor of Middle East History and Politics, London School of Economics. Has published Popular Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East, Cambridge 2016 etc.)
Ana Dinerstein (Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Bath. Has published The Politics of Autonomy in Latin America: the Art of Organizing Hope, Palgrave 2014 etc.)
Christina Heatherton (Assistant Professor of American Studies, Barnard College. Has published Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter, Verso 2016 etc. )
Dolly Kikon (Senior Lecturer, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne. Has published Living with Oil and Coal: Resource Politics and Militarization in Northeast India, University of Washington Press 2019 etc.)
John Krinsky (Professor of Political Science, CUNY Graduate Center. Has published Who Cleans the Park? Public Work and Urban Governance in New York City, Chicago 2017 etc.)
David Landy (Assistant Professor of Sociology, Trinity College Dublin. Has published Jewish Identity and Palestinian Rights: Diaspora Jewish Opposition to Israel, Zed 2011.)
Ching Kwan Lee (Professor of Sociology, UCLA. Has published The Specter of Global China: Politics, Labor, and Foreign Investment in Africa, Chicago 2018 etc.)
Xochitl Leyva Solano (Professor, Center for Higher Research of Social Anthropology, Chiapas. Has published Remunicipalization in Chiapas. Politics and the Political in Times of Counter-Insurgency, CIESAS 2013 etc.)
Alice Mattoni (Assistant Professor, Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence. Has published Media Practices and Protest Politics: How Precarious Workers Mobilize, Routledge 2016 etc.)
Geoffrey Pleyers (Professor of Sociology, Université de Louvain and Researcher, Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris. Has published Alter-globalization: Becoming Actors in the Global Age, Polity 2011 etc.)
Srila Roy (Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand. Has published New South Asian Feminisms: Paradoxes and Possibilities, Zed 2012 etc.)
Anna Szolucha (Research Fellow, University of Northumbria. Has published Real Democracy in the Occupy Movement: No Stable Ground, Routledge 2017 etc.)
Karl von Holdt (Director of the Society Work and Development Institute, University of the Witwatersrand. Has published Conversations with Bourdieu: the Johannesburg Moment, Wits University Press 2012 etc.)
Lesley Wood (Associate Professor of Sociology, York University Toronto. Has published Crisis and Control: the Militarization of Protest Policing, Pluto 2014 etc.)