Performing Allyship: Elite Allies, Social Movements and the Case of Violence Against Women in Morocco

Asma Ali Farah

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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In the literature on social movements, elite allies occupy an important place in conceptualisations of political opportunity structures. Yet the ways in which elite allyship is performed has not been systematically examined and remain under-theorised. In this thesis, I seek to remedy these shortcomings in the scholarship and further our understanding of the role of elite allyship for social movements. First, drawing on a meta-analysis, I find that elite allies are not a strong predictor of policy change favourable to social movements. I then draw on the case of violence against women in Morocco in the post -Arab Spring era, to uncover why this might be the case. I use content analysis and semi-structured interviews to examine how a range of elite actors interact with Moroccan women’s groups and coalitions, and how the latter interpret their participation. I find that women’s groups and coalitions in Morocco benefit from the presence of a range of elite actors that perform different acts of allyship. These include the articulation of claims aligned with those of women’s groups and coalitions, the provision of moral resources and the use of double mobilisation. Despite these performances, women’s groups and coalitions in Morocco do not perceive many of these actors to be performing e lite allyship. Rather they see elite allyship as involving the provision of a wide range of resources, collaboration with activists and substantial leverage against other elite actors. Moreover, they see effective allyship as coming from representative and democratic institutions, rather than unelected and unaccountable ones. Thus, both the source of elite allyship and its characteristics matter.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Heath, Oliver, Supervisor
  • Halperin, Sandra, Supervisor
Award date1 Jul 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - 2018


  • social movements
  • Political Opportunity Structure
  • elite allies
  • policy
  • Morocco
  • women's movement

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