Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International studies

Committee Director

Erika Frydenlund

Committee Member

F. LeRon Shults

Committee Member

Angelica Huizar


In 2003, McAdam et al. released their seminal work Dynamics of Contention as a challenge to scholars within the field of contentious politics. In it, they claimed that the field required a refocusing from static and topical arguments splintered into various disciplines, to a more unified research agenda in search of causal mechanisms. In the spirit of their work, this study seeks to revisit this original critique considering more recent scholarship in the fields of Complexity and Systems Sciences along with certain technological advances in the field of computational social science, namely, the Agent-Based Model (ABM). In addition, both computational modelers and non-modelers have, to this point, ignored important evidence that would shed light on key factors, actors, and mechanisms which may serve as a potential explanandum for social movement emergence, persistence, and termination. To address this, I construct an agent-based model to examine the decision-making outcomes of three separate agents—union members, non-union members, and police agents—derived from qualitative ethnographic data collection from participants involved in a large-scale protest event which occurred in Oaxaca, Mexico from May to November 2006. The use of ethnographic data to inform ABMs is an important and growing practice in social science inquiry; however, there is little methodological standardization that enables conversion of ethnographic data to computer algorithm. To this end, my dissertation contributes to the advancement of an Ethnographic Simulation methodology by extrapolating from qualitative data explicit rules that govern the generation of an artificial environment for analysis. In short, the purpose of my model is to construct an empirical story through experimentation in-silico towards the generation of a set of candidate explanations for my use case, an important contribution to the social movement field itself as well as a necessary methodological advancement in studying phenomena of social dissent.


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