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Patterns of adaptation and recontextualisation: The transnational diffusion of Black Lives Matter to Italy and Germany

ABSTRACT Following the killing of George Floyd on 25 May 2020, a wave of ‘Black Lives Matter’ (BLM) protests swept the globe, including most European countries. In this article, we provide a detailed comparative empirical account of the transnational diffusion of BLM protests from the USA to Italy and Germany. Shedding light on BLM mobilisations outside the USA, we complement theoretical reflections on protest diffusion by inquiring how the interplay of previously existing structural and contingent conditions influence such processes. The main theoretical contribution is hence singling out how some specific characteristics in the receiving context affect the diffusion process. Drawing from quantitative and qualitative data on the protest wave in the two countries, this research points at how, during episodes of cross-national diffusion of contentious politics, the triggering event reshaped existing social movement families in similar directions in different contexts. At the same time, however, it also points at differences in the ways in which existing actors adapt ideas coming from outside, through a mechanism of recontextualisation and adaptation. While the construction of similarities is crucial in distant contexts and cases of thin diffusion, specific national characteristics continue to play a prominent role in shaping diffusion processes.