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download pdfPolitical and Social Movements and Global Discontent (HIST 720)

First Semester 2013, University of Ghana

Marc Becker

This course explores global discontent and the movements it generated, such as social movements, student movements, women’s movements, and anti-colonial movements in the twentieth century. This course may be of interest to graduate students pursuing fields in colonial studies, social movements, civil society, gender studies, and Africana studies. Students will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with, and seek to understand ideas such as colonialism, imperialism, feminism, and revolution. This sojourn through time involves being acquainted with personalities who gave thought and voice to the above ideas, as well as knowing the historical context within which these ideas were conceived.

Weekly responses (30%)
Come prepared to each meeting of the seminar with a brief written examination of the readings for that week that includes:

  • The disciplinary and ideological perspective of the author
  • The thesis (argument) of the reading
  • The types of sources and evidence that the author uses to support the argument
  • Your assessment of the author’s interpretations (are they convincing? how would you construct the argument differently?)
  • Questions that the readings raised for you, including points of agreement and disagreement.

Final exam (70%)
The final exam will include the writing of a 20-page historiographical essay that surveys the existing literature on one specific aspect of social or political movements. The essay should include an overview of the topic; an exploration of the interpretation, research, and objectives of the existing literature; and an explanation of what needs to be done in future research to improve our understanding of this topic.

Reading list
Except for the first week during which we will read a group of articles and book chapters, we will read a book a week, with additional articles possibly being added to the reading list during the course of the semester.


Buechler, Steven M. "New Social Movement Theories." Sociological Quarterly 36, no. 3 (Summer 1995): 441-64.

Escobar, Arturo and Sonia E. Alvarez. "Introduction: Theory and Protest in Latin America Today." In The Making of Social Movements in Latin America: Identity, Strategy, and Democracy, ed. Arturo Escobar and Sonia E. Alvarez, 1-15. Boulder, Colo: Westview Press, 1992.

Slater, David. "Power and social movements in the other Occident: Latin America in an international context." In Latin American Social Movements in the Twenty-First Century: Resistance, Power, and Democracy, ed. Richard Stahler-Sholk, Harry E. Vanden, and Glen Kuecker, 17-38. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008. [Originally published 1994]

Hellman, Judith Adler. "The Riddle of New Social Movements: Who They Are and What They Do." In Capital, Power, and Inequality in Latin America, ed. Sandor Halebsky and Richard L. Harris, 165-83. Boulder: Westview Press, 1995.

Vanden, Harry E. "Social movements, hegemony, and new forms of resistance." In Latin American Social Movements in the Twenty-First Century: Resistance, Power, and Democracy, ed. Richard Stahler-Sholk, Harry E. Vanden, and Glen Kuecker, 39-55. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008.

Ellner, Steve. "Latin America's Radical Left in Power: Complexities and Challenges in the Twenty-first Century." Latin American Perspectives 40, no. 3 (May 2013): 5-25.

Weekly readings

Hobsbawm, E. J. Bandits. New York: New Press, 2000.

Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press, 2005.

Gledhill, John. and Patience A. Schell, ed. New approaches to resistance in Brazil and Mexico. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012. [we may split this reading over 2 weeks]

Tilly, Charles and Sidney G. Tarrow. Contentious politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Dubois, Laurent. Haiti: the aftershocks of history. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2012.

Gould, Jeffrey L. and Aldo Lauria-Santiago. To Rise in Darkness: Revolution, repression, and memory in El Salvador, 1920-1932. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008.

Auyero, Javier. Contentious lives: two Argentine women, two protests, and the quest for recognition. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.

Sitrin, Marina A. Everyday Revolutions Horizontalism and Autonomy in Argentina. London: Zed Books, 2012.

Ciccariello-Maher, George. We created Chávez: a people's history of the Venezuelan Revolution. Durham: Duke University Press, 2013.

** Conway, Janet M. Edges of global justice: the World Social Forum and its "others." New York: Routledge, 2013.

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