Get the Picture? -- Strategic Multi-framing and Cultural Resonance in Quebec Students’ Protests
Our extant knowledge on strategic framing in social movement is largely gained on movement activists’ discursive undertakings against opponents in a bid to promote their frames onto the central stage. While previous studies offer valuable insights on the internal dynamics of social movement, their overly voluntaristic accounts tend to trivialize the cultural context, overlooking its role in enabling and constraining framing strategies. To redress the tendency, this research investigates into how the master frame emerges as a product of the on-going struggle, negotiation and compromise among opposing parties in their attempts to engender cultural resonance among the constituents and the general public. Bolstered by a unique setting, Montréal, Québec, a city profoundly marked by a history of conflicts among linguistic communities, and of controversial language legislation, this research examines the latest year-long episode of Quebec student protests against tuition increase. The construction and promotion of both “official” frames and activists’ frames are studied with special attention paid to the co-existence of and constant shifts among multiple frames even within a party. The case study unravels how contending parties strategically taps into multiple representations of education in this chiefly Francophone society in their framing of the movement, and how such multi-framing is both enabled and constrained by various cultural contexts where it is situated. In addition, analysis on coverage by mainstream and alternative media sources, both in English and French, provides fresh insights into media’s agency in the multi-player frame contests of the social movement where bifurcation between Anglophone and Francophone media is argued to be ostensible. This paper concludes with a broader discussion on how the context-based multi-framing perspective could inform the management and public administration field, among many others.