Publication Details

Martin, B. & Sorensen, M. Jul. (2017). Investigating nonviolent action by experimental testing. Journal of Resistance Studies, 3 (2), 42-65.

Link to publisher version (URL)

Irene Publishing


Strategic nonviolent action has developed enormously over the past century: there is a burgeoning body of research, widespread use in social movements, and regular training of activists. Even so, understanding of nonviolent action has been constrained by the methods used to investigate it, for example case studies and practical experience. The experimental method, as widely used in scientific research, has yet to be applied to the study of nonviolent action in systematic ways. In this article, two possible experiments with nonviolent action are presented to highlight some of the possibilities. Experiments with nonviolent action have the usual rationale of acquiring knowledge and two additional rationales: participant practical understanding and participant willingness to learn from experimentation. There are a number of obstacles to nonviolence experimentation, including lack of funding. ethical challenges, and opposition from various parties. Yet until experimental testing becomes routine, the full potential of nonviolent action will not be realized.