Explaining Variation in Challenges to Social Conventions: Black Political Leadership and 'Contraband Camps' in the U.S. Civil War
41 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2021
Date Written: August 9, 2021
What explains variation in the extent to which out-group individuals participate in behaviors that challenge existing social orders in ways that fall short of outright contentious politics? In addition to existing explanations that point to technological exposure, institutional change, or leadership attributes, we present a new and complementary explanation. We argue that more significant limitations on a dominant group's ability to police access to informal and formal institutions of power or to regulate participation in privileged activities in a given location cause higher rates of persistent out-group actions that challenge existing social orders. We test our argument using the creation of "contraband camps'' during the U.S. Civil War and Reconstruction-era Black political leadership. These camps significantly limited whites' power and control locally, while Black political leadership breached social conventions at the time. Using quantitative analyses that draw on original data collection, we find that relative to counties without such camps, counties with the camps had almost twice as many Black political leaders. Our results shed light on an understudied phenomenon in the U.S. Civil War while also contributing to research on social change.
Keywords: [comma separated]social change, U.S. Civil War, political leadership, political change
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