Why did American civil rights activists fail to fully implement the Gandhian repertoire before the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 and 1956? How did transnational diffusion of the Gandhian repertoire proceed over time? Classical diffusion theory provides a useful starting point for answering these questions, but it does not fully capture the twists and turns occurring in the transnational diffusion of a collective action repertoire. To account for the non-linear and contingent aspects of transnational diffusion between social movements, this article proposes an alternative theoretical framework and applies it to the case of diffusion between the independence movement in India and the civil rights movement in the United States. The historical case study emphasizes collective reinvention of the Gandhian repertoire by American civil rights networks, instead of critical mass or individual thresholds; and the intergenerational transfer of relevant knowledge and experience from these implementation pioneers to the new generation of civil rights movement activists. Finally, the article examines whether its alternative theoretical framework only applies to this particular instance of transnational diffusion or whether it has more general relevance for social movement theory.

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