Inspiring the Citizen to be Bold: Framing Theory and the Rise and Decline of the #ThisFlag-movement in Zimbabwe.
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This thesis aims to research the #ThisFlag-movement, in the context of the repressive state of Zimbabwe. The movement was founded overnight through a Facebook-video. The unwitting origination left the #ThisFlag’s founder Evan Mawarire completely unaware of the impact his actions would have. Despite the lack of a strong strategy for its development, the movement was able to create a new wave of contentious political claim-making in Zimbabwean society. By offering a nonpartisan narrative of low threshold solutions to address injustices, #ThisFlag became a platform that was able to mobilize thousands of citizens to be bold and speak-out against their government. After a peak in movement-momentum around July 2016, the stories surrounding #ThisFlag changed rapidly. Boldness and participation turned into skepticism and withdrawal, causing #ThisFlag to find itself on a path of movement-decline. This thesis-project studies the emergence and decline of #ThisFlag from a cultural perspective, with the concept of ‘meaning-making’ taking centre-stage. By using ‘collective action frames’ as the main analytical framework, the thesis aims to better understand the meaning attached to movement involvement. The particular conceptualization of collective action frames through the sensitizing concepts of ‘injustice’, ‘agency’ and ‘identity’ offers the opportunity to incorporate both the strategic framing efforts of movement-entrepreneurs as well as the less strategic interpretations by movement participants on the receiving end of the frame. Adding the phase of movement-decline to the analysis will allow us to get a more holistic understanding of the construction of meaning attached to social movement involvement and the relationship between different movement-phases. The findings of this thesis illustrate that two main frames were constructed to inspire and legitimize social movement participation. The particular use of the Zimbabwean flag and #ThisFlag’s nonpartisan stance were the main-features around which these sets of beliefs and meanings could be built. Then, the shifting meaning attached to movement involvement, which I call decline, can only be understood in the light of the way in which these two frames were constructed in the phase of movement emergence. The way in which these frames were constructed and later shifted will be of central importance to #ThisFlag’s development as a movement towards the future.