Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name



Political Science

Committee Chair

Rhodebeck, Laurie

Author's Keywords

Self-immolation; Collective action; Protest; Collective behavior; Suicide; Mobilization


Self-immolation--Political aspects--India; Self-immolation--Political aspects--South Korea; Protest movements--India; Protest movements--South Korea; Suicide--Political aspects


In recent years, self-immolation has become a pervasive tactic of political protest. To this point, however, it has been unclear why self-immolation has become so widely employed, calling into question the social and political efficacy of the tactic. The purpose of this thesis is to determine self-immolation's impact on three target groups: the core, the periphery, and the political system. In doing so, I conduct a comparative study of India's anti-reservation movement and South Korea's pro-democracy movement, both of which experienced high frequencies of self-immolation. I demonstrate that while self-immolation was ineffective at mobilizing the core and only moderately effective at mobilizing the periphery and initiating political change, in South Korea, self-immolation was highly effective on all three groups. I argue that the differences in efficacy can be attributed to variations in social structure, political culture, issue diffusion, and institutional access to the political system.