Call for Abstracts: Hard-to-Reach Populations in Contentious Politics

Call for abstracts

Studying Hard-to-reach Populations in Contentious Politics

Rich research in political science focuses on the drivers of protests, riots, and other forms of social mobilization. Existing theories highlight the role of information, social networks and ideology as key factors explaining citizens’ decision to mobilize. Empirical research is hampered however by the difficulty of identifying populations who are likely to participate in social mobilization, which in turn limits the studying of preferences and decision-making at the micro-level.

Scholars studying contentious politics face three empirical challenges, similar to the ones encountered by scholars in sociology and other fields studying hard-to-reach populations. First, political groups stigmatized by the government or the society, though visible during short and often spontaneous mobilization activity, are difficult to reach otherwise. Additionally, due to their marginalized status, such groups might not attain collective action and therefore remain inscrutable. Second, even if we identify and reach members of those groups, eliciting true preferences and beliefs from them remains challenging. Finally, researching these populations raises difficult questions of research ethics, since the information collected might prove compromising to study participants.

In this conference, we seek to explore the scope for integrating methods developed in sociology and demography for studying hard-to-reach populations to the study of contentious politics in low-information contexts. We further seek to assess the potential of blending these measurement strategies with truth-eliciting mechanisms commonly used in survey research. Finally, we seek to collectively discuss the potential use that findings and data in these settings could have, emphasizing its ethical implications.

This call for abstracts is the first step towards a conference with the goal of assessing the current state of research on hidden populations in politics. Interested scholars should submit a one-page abstract for consideration by December 15, 2021. During initial selection, priority will be given to the projects that display interest in using methods to measure hard-to-reach populations in Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs). Although the focus of this call is on contentious politics, we welcome submissions from diverse topics related to broader social and political processes (clientelism, corruption, sexual minorities, etc.) Scholars from the selected projects will be invited to participate in a series of teach-ins on hard-to-reach population methods and survey design in early 2022 (virtual or hybrid regime) and will have an opportunity to receive feedback on their projects from invited experts.After the teach-ins, up to four projects will be able to request support of up to $3000 (US Dollars) to develop their abstract into a full research design or for pilot research activities.

To send your abstract, or express your interest, please fill out this form: We encourage researchers to reach out to the organizers if unsure of fit. We encourage junior scholars, women, members of historically underrepresented groups, and scholars from diverse regions to submit their work.

We look forward to receiving your proposals!

Julio S. Solís Arce, email: jsolisarce [at]

Georgiy Syunyaev, email: georgiy.syunyaev [at]