Interested in how social change works? Or how to stop it? This seminar provides an introduction to the origins, dynamics, and consequences of historical and contemporary social movements. All of us are enmeshed in powerful political, social and economic systems that are resistant to change. Occasionally, however, people do band together and challenge these systems: they picket, they march, they strike, they sit-in, they mobilize social media, they form protest organizations and demand change. Such occasions are important moments because they represent the rare opportunity for the normally powerless to challenge the normally powerful. From BlackLiveMatter to the Tea Party, from the women’s movement to the Arab Spring, this course offers an exploration of such moments.
Studying social movements allows us to reflect on larger questions about the nature of political power, conflict, and legitimacy, as well as the relationship between human agency, social structure, and historical change. The seminar provides an impetus for students to discuss and develop their own ideas on these issues.
The syllabus, and the movements examined, changes every semester based on the interests of the students in the seminar. Here are some samples of what we have covered in the past: