Shabag, a critical social moment: a collective agency capabilities analysis

PhD Thesis

Shariff, R. 2019. Shabag, a critical social moment: a collective agency capabilities analysis. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University School of Psychology, Politics and Sociology
AuthorsShariff, R.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification namePhD

This thesis sets out an approach to understanding the impact of change oriented ‘social moments’ on social practices and structures. The empirical case on which the thesis draws to develop this argument is the Shahbag protests in Bangladesh.

At the theoretical level, the thesis suggests that ‘Social Moments’ oriented to change (as differentiated from social movements) can be triggered by latent injustices occurring within a given society. Using a Critical Theoretical lens and the Capability Approach, the thesis sets out a Being-Doing-Impact Model oriented to an understanding of the conditions necessary for a Social Moment to occur. These moments occur where individuals from different parts of the social habitus come together, to create a scene, as a critical mass in
order to effect change. Such moments can lead to shifts in systems and practices, and ultimately to a more just society.

The research assesses in detail the conditions that made the Shahbag Moment possible. These conditions include: the presence of the necessary agency capabilities of
individuals; the effective mobilisation of instrumental freedoms; the substantive presence of networks of social support and solidarity (all of which bring into play an important affective dimension). The wider social context is also viewed as a crucial component. The thesis shows how, for example, the atmosphere at Shahbag can be considered as cultural, positive and safe. It also shows a willingness on the part of Government to listen and
respond to the will of the people. Moreover, the role of the media and social media, which shared the Moment’s messages, and offered an open and transparent information platform to debate and discuss the issues was significant. An analysis of the case histories of the Shahbag Moment in Bangladesh allows for the further development of the theoretical approach in a concrete empirical context

KeywordsPolitics; Bangladesh; Shahbag Moment; Social moments
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Publication process dates
Deposited20 Apr 2020
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