Date of Award

1-1-2008

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Benford, Robert

Abstract

The social control of protest can be carried out by a number of agents; among them are the police, legislators, organized countermovements, and the news media. This research examines how the tactics and strategies of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) have been shaped and maintained through both internal and external elements of social control. In addition to data obtained through field observations of WBC pickets at the funerals of military personnel who have died in the ensuing military campaign in Iraq, this research utilizes individual and peer group interviews with three generations of WBC members, in addition to a number of WBC internal documents and artifacts. The data provide a background on the WBC as a church, its culture, and the various mechanisms of internal social control that have guided them through upwards of 20,000 street pickets over the last eighteen years. Further, I examine the Westboro Baptists' utilization and perceptions of the role of the police in their "love crusades," as well as the protest policing strategy of Negotiated Management and their uniform utilization of it. This research adds to our current understanding of the relationship between mobilization and social control, specifically the function of narrative as a form of internal social control that facilitates the development of collective identity and culture, intergenerational movement socialization, and shifts in tactics and framing strategies utilized by mobilized collectives. Moreover, this research contributes to our understanding of the impact of ideology and access to legal resources in determining group responses to attempts at the external social control of their mobilization.

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