University of Twente Student Theses


Disruptive climate protesters : Terrorists or concerned citizens? A discourse analysis of parliamentary debates in the UK and Germany

Strunck, Christina (2023) Disruptive climate protesters : Terrorists or concerned citizens? A discourse analysis of parliamentary debates in the UK and Germany.

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Abstract:This thesis examines the discourses employed in parliamentary debates on disruptive climate protests in the UK and Germany. In 2022 and 2023, these countries like many others saw a surge in disruptive climate activism which sparked frequent debates. Therefore, seven parliamentary debates in the British House of Commons and the German Bundestag were chosen for a discourse analysis following a combination of approaches suggested by Hajer and Keller. As this analysis shows, a narrative of rejection of disruptive protests dominated most discourses while climate change, the cause of the protests, was discussed less. Three discourses focused on the need of more climate action while the others emphasized prevention of and countermeasures to the protests. Although civil disobedience literature suggests that legitimacy and legality of disruptive protests methods need to be treated as separate concepts, debates focused strongly on the (il)legality of the measures. Especially conservative and right-wing parties aim at discursive obstruction of the activists and react with repression. In the UK, this repression manifested itself in the implementation of the Public Order Act creating serious disruption prevention orders and making locking on or interfering with key infrastructure an illegal offence. In Germany, however, the debate was coined by more diversity of discourses of which two also differentiate between legitimacy and legality of the acts. This finding suggests that future research on acceptance of protests among politicians and the public needs to distinguish between legitimacy and legality as separate concepts. The analysis further confirms findings of previous studies on the acceptance of Fridays for Future protests and finds that party family and parties’ positions on climate change are correlated with acceptance of the protests. Further research on discourses within the public debate is needed to assess the impact of discourses among Members of Parliament outside of the parliament and its impact on the implementation of climate protection policies.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:71 sociology, 89 political science
Programme:European Studies MSc (69303)
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