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All over the world people protest under difficult and often even dangerous conditions. Facing these conditions, protesters began to establish protest camps that serve as a visual point of the demonstration as well as an organizational headquarter. These camps and their social fabric keep the people engaged and at the very place of the uprising. The camps at Gezi Park in Istanbul, on the Maidan in Kyiv, in the Mong Kok District in Hong Kong or on the Tahrir Square in Cairo became the focal point of anti-regime protests. They were the scenes of terrible violence but also of new forms of social engagement, housing and supporting thousands of people for weeks or even months (Frenzel, Feigenbaum, and McCurdy 2014). While research has engaged with the causes, consequences and characteristics of revolutions and social uprisings quite extensively, scholarly accounts of the so-called “backstage” (i.e., the provision of the necessary logistics) for these protests has been ambiguous: either these protest camps are normatively treated as self-serving spaces with a high level of agency by the people or they are not discussed at all (Eltantawy and Wiest 2011; Frenzel, Feigenbaum, and McCurdy 2014). Yet, from a comparative perspective and with a substantive research interest, we do not have real empirical information on simple things like the quantity and type of these logistics. Nor do we have more specific knowledge, such as where these logistics come from. We can expect to find different types of logistics in distinctly different protest camps as in Gezi Park in Istanbul or on the Maidan in Kyiv - for example, considering the soup kitchens that were self-created by citizens as in Kyiv or professional set-ups by Greenpeace as in Gezi Park. Expanding our knowledge on the backstage of popular uprisings, will allow us to engage with important and fundamental questions about the course, the legitimacy, and the impact of popular uprisings in authoritarian settings.

Considering this, LOOPS focusses on three distinct research interests with different methodological approaches: First, based on a theoretical framework of the professionalization of protest logistics, LOOPS creates the first comprehensive dataset on protest logistics in authoritarian regimes. Using a pioneering analysis of images, we will collect original data on the type, quantity, and professionalism of back-stage logistics. Second, we will complement this broad comparative perspective with important and unique qualitative data on the organizational and financial support of these logistics. And third, LOOPS will test the effects of the differences in the backstage of popular uprisings on autocratic resilience and sustainable democratic development.

Work Package 1:

1) What basic logistics are required and provided in popular uprisings in competitive authoritarian regimes? Is it limited to portable toilets, cooking stations, and medical support or does it extend to different social needs (for example organized yoga classes, prayer stations or gardening)?

2) What level of professionalization of logistics that meet basic human needs is present and observable in protest camps? Does it reflect the bottom-up claim of protest organizers?

Work Package 2:

1) Who organized the logistics and where did the funds for the different logistics come from?

2) Were the camps funded and supported solely from within the civil society or backed by an external influence?

Work Package 3:

1) What effect did the level of professionalization and the background of the logistics have on the success or failure of popular uprisings and their legitimacy (or perceived legitimacy) in competitive autocratic regimes?

2) Can we observe any impact of the characteristics of logistics (for example the level of professionalization) on autocratic resilience as well as long-term effects on consolidation attempts?

The engagement with these research questions makes LOOPS a ground-breaking project that transforms our knowledge of the characteristics and role of popular uprisings in authoritarian regimes. We pursue an ambitious research agenda with theoretical and methodological innovations that is strongly embedded in an interdisciplinary approach. The theoretical framework as well as the development of a concrete hypothesis draws from social movement, institutionalization, transformation, as well as autocratization research and engages with key arguments in this literature.