Date of Award

Fall 12-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Studies

Committee Director

Jesse T. Richman

Committee Member

Saikou Diallo

Committee Member

Regina Karp

Committee Member

LeRon Shults


The objective of this study is to propose a theoretical model to investigate the mechanism by which contesting of a harmful legal norm by powerless individual actors results in the emergence of a new norm. While much work has been done on norm contestation at the “actor level” in the field, the structural conditions under which contesting of harmful norms by powerless individual actors lead to emergence of a new norm have been insufficiently studied, especially in the non-democratic cultural context. I developed a model that combine existing causal theories in one frame to reproduce observe conditions in the real world to determine necessary structural conditions for the emergence of a new norm by powerless individual actors.

A modeling and simulation method and, more specifically, the theoretical model building paradigm is used to develop the model. Social identity theory and the system dynamics modeling approach are used to respectively build the conceptual model and implement the simulation model. The model is tested and compared within two types of communities: democratic and loose vs non-democratic and tight.

My findings determine necessary structural conditions for the emergence of a new norm. Indeed, my model’s result show that education among others play the main role in the process of norm emergence which is consistent with the previous literature. Moreover, the model’s results demonstrate that while average-strength harmful norms can be replaced in democratic and loose societies, only weak norms can be replaced in non-democratic and tight societies. Finally, the simulation model introduces new counterfactual generated hypothesis that can be further tested through empirical studies.