Researching the No Dakota Access Pipeline Standing Rock Protest Movement

April 30, 2017

In this issue of our case studies in ATLAS.ti series, we interview Mary Louisa Capelli, from Global Mother.  Mary Louisa tells us about her research with the No Dakota Access Pipeline Standing Rock Protest Movement (No DAPL) and how she is using ATLAS.ti in the study.

Mary Louisa, thank you very much for sharing with us your experience with ATLAS.ti.  First, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Mary LouisaI am a graduate and interdisciplinary scholar from the University of Southern California (USC), University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and Loyola Law School, where I studied anthropology, theater film and television, law and literature. A former lecturer at Emerson College, I currently engage in participatory action research examining the impact of globalization on indigenous populations in Africa and Central America. Her research synthesizes media, literature, legal anthropology and law.

Where do you work?

I work at Global Mother (, an NGO that researches and documents the understanding of motherhood rights and promotes family sustainability in both industrialized and developing countries. By researching the impact of globalization on motherhood, we voice a motherhood advocacy position, which identifies and examines transnational contracts in developing countries and neoliberal policies that undermine diverse family structures and family unity.

By synthesizing law, anthropology, and human stories, we aim at the following:

  • Examining the changing face of motherhood.
  • Examining the devastating impact of globalization on families.
  • Supporting and fundraise to support local mothers.
  • Advocating for institutional reforms at the local and global level.

Tell us a little about the project in which you are using ATLAS.ti.

The protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock (DAPL) in North Dakota created a dynamic digital landscape consisting of a wide-range of interwoven visual and textual narratives and political performances. In this case study, I analyze how The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Indigenous grass root leaders deployed digital media platforms to mobilize peoples from diverse geographical locations and diverse social, racial, political, and economic backgrounds to take action against those private and public institutions responsible for the construction of the pipeline.  In examining the complex audiovisual landscape, I employ a cultural materialist framework to interrogate how messages are conveyed through literary, visual, and narrative techniques in both offline and online relationships. This case study contributes to the growing scholarship on digital ethnography and provides important evidence of how indigenous activists formulate strategic decisions and implement counter narratives of political resistance that depend on digital technology (The World Wide Web, and social networking cites such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Youtube and other media platforms).

How have you used ATLAS.ti in your project?

ATLAS.ti is an outstanding user-friendly qualitative research software tool that assists me in doing intensive research on the NO DAPL Standing Rock Protest Movement. It has enabled me to pull together research documents, images, photographs, videos, interviews, Facebook and twitter posts and examine it in innovative ways. The program has enabled me to manage, code, analyze and frame my discourse in ways that in the past were painstakingly slow.  In addition, the visualization tools have provided new insight and perspective on my research exposing complex patterns and relationships that I might not have unpacked otherwise.

Thank you!

Mary Louisa can be contacted at [email protected].


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