Meaning Making in Protest Situations

Master's Thesis


This article draws from active participant ethnographic fieldwork with a new religious movement and a microsociological perspective to better understand bystander recruitment. Specifically, I shift focus from the individual to the situation to explore dynamic influences on bystanders’ assessments of protest situations organized around two issues: attempts to ‘reclaim’ the clitoris in order to liberate women’s sexuality and their use of the swastika inside the Star of David as their group’s religious symbol. Integrating cultural sociology and social psychology, I demonstrate processes of meaning-making that occur as bystanders enter protest situations and that mediate their engagement with the protests: (1) spatial dynamics as they mediate emotions and cognitions; (2) the presence of potentially polluting symbols; and (3) the consequences of emotional inconsistencies. Results not only extend our understanding of bystander recruitment, especially unexpected variation, but also demonstrate the value of an analytic shift away from the individual toward the protest situation and processes of meaning-making.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-04222015-091642

Author Justin Van Ness
Advisor Erika Summers-Effler
Contributor Mary Ellen Konieczny, Committee Member
Contributor Terry McDonnell, Committee Member
Contributor Kraig Beyerlein, Committee Member
Contributor Erika Summers-Effler, Committee Chair
Degree Level Master's Thesis
Degree Discipline Sociology
Degree Name Master of Arts
Defense Date
  • 2015-01-23

Submission Date 2015-04-22
  • United States of America

  • religion

  • culture

  • social movements

  • theory

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units

Digital Object Identifier


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