Department of Conflict Resolution Studies Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Conflict Resolution Studies

First Advisor

Elena P. Bastidas

Second Advisor

Ismael Muvingi

Third Advisor

Bertha Amisi

Abstract

In the spring of 2018, student protesters around the United States took to the streets and campuses of their schools to call for tighter gun control laws following the mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, FL. The highly visible nonviolent protest movement, known as the March for Our Lives (MFOL), was carried out by young people still in middle or high school and was fraught with risks that included disagreement with parents, teachers, and school administrators, detention or other penalties on their school record, and threats of violent harassment from counter protesters. MFOL protesters in and around southeastern Pennsylvania were interviewed in the fall of 2020 and the results were analyzed using a structural and narrative analysis to determine how they perceived themselves, the MFOL movement, and counter-protesters. All of the participants spoke of their experiences, perspectives, and relationships within the movement, as well as relationships with teachers, administrators, family members and friends. The analysis highlighted themes such as openness to new ideas, intersectionality of social issues, protest as an opportunity for growth, learning and connection with others, motivations and choices for participating in protest, and how they supported one another in response to counter-protesters. The accounts provided a wide variety of form, structure, and coherence that led to detailed narrative analysis of identity formation and how it occurred in the context of a nonviolent social movement centered on school shootings, gun violence, and gun control.

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