UCL Institute of the Americas


Cosimo Stahl

Anti-corruption protests and contention in Odebrecht-ridden Brazil – a mere series of isolated protest events, or the work of contentious anti-corruption communities? Investigating the role and extent of ‘networked’ institutional players in sustaining the protest cycle and championing favourable anti-corruption outcomes


Dr Par Engstrom and Professor Christian Schuster (UCL Political Science)

Arguing that the waves of protests in Brazil in the wake of the Odebrecht corruption scandal have been infused by a loosely coordinated network of social movements organisations (SMOs), political activists, the media and institutional insiders, I seek to map claims-making (including processes and acts of performing, articulating and framing claims) across a multi-organisational field (public and political arenas). In contrast to the social movement literature which assigns key mobilising attributes to mostly extra-institutional social movement actors and organisations, I postulate that, in the Brazilian case, it is in fact an empowered group of anti-corruption champions from the judiciary comprised of institutional insiders, activists and entrepreneurs who spearhead said activism by means of strategic framing (prognostic/diagnostic/motivational framing) on the one side, and tactical claims-making (discursive, i.e. collective frames; physical, i.e. assertive collection action forms) on the other. The empirical open questions to be answered are the following: Firstly, by so doing, have said institutional players been able to sustain and prolong the protest cycle on the one hand, thereby often eliciting crucial institutional responses favourable for anti-corruption (e.g. prevent relapse by blocking counter-mobilisation to revert or annul key legislations)? And secondly, have they been able to champion the anti-cause and advance the anti-corruption agenda by fuelling anti-corruption contention with assertive collective action tactics, and by so doing, increased policy responsiveness beyond the agenda-setting phase.