Politics and Social Change Workshop


Monday, October 15, 2018, 3:30pm to 5:30pm


CGIS Knafel Building, 1737 Cambridge Street, Room K050

"Development, Politics, Demography, and Diffusion: A Wave of Anti-Regime Protests in Iran"


Mohammad Ali Kadivar, Assistant Professor of Sociology and International Studies, Boston College.

Co-sponsored by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University.


Cresa Pugh

Light refreshments will be served from 3:30 p.m. and the talk will begin promptly at 4:00 p.m.


Paul Chang, Faculty Associate. Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Harvard University.

Peggy Levitt, Associate. Chair; Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, Wellesley College.

Jocelyn Viterna, Faculty Associate. Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, Harvard University.


In late December 2017 a wave of anti-regime protest swept through Iranian dozens of Iranian counties. The geographic spread of protests was unprecedented in Modern Iranian history. We use the sub-national variation in this case to analyze how a leaderless wave of protest spread in an electoral authoritarian regime with weak social movement sector and unstable party system. We develop six groups of explanations emphasizing deprivation, climate change, welfare state, political context, youth bulge, and demonstration effect through spatial proximity and internet. Based on original data on this cycle of protest and other new political and socioeconomic data, we present a repeated event history analysis of the protest cycle. Our results show support for the effect of deprivation, internet, welfare state, and the political context. The effect of political context, nonetheless, is different from studies of political opportunities developed mostly in consolidated democracies. We highlight the lack of a stable party system and the limited nature of elections to interpret these different results. Our approach highlights the importance of the perceptions of political opportunities, and a contextual understanding of the political configuration of protest beyond consolidated democratic polities.