2012-13 Catalog

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Offering Description

Making Effective Change: Social Movement Organizing and Activism


Fall 2012, Winter 2013 and Spring 2013 quarters

Anthony Zaragoza (F,W) political economy , Zoltan Grossman geography , Lin Nelson sociology
Fields of Study
American studies, communications, community studies, geography, history, law and government policy, law and public policy, leadership studies, media studies, political science, sociology and sustainability studies
Preparatory for studies or careers in
non-governmental organizations, advocacy, public policy, law and legal rights, education, public health, alternative justice systems, graduate school in social science, history, law, geography and political economy.

Social movements don’t just happen. They emerge in complex, often subtle ways out of shifting historic conditions, at first unnoticed or underestimated. Social movements--across the political spectrum--push us to examine a wide array of questions about ideas, communication and organization, and how people are inspired and mobilized to create change. In this program, we will explore what individuals and communities can do about whatever issues are of most concern to them.

This program will examine methods of community organizing that educate and draw people into social movements, and methods of activism that can turn their interests and commitment into effective action. Key to this will be how movements construct and frame their strategies, using a toolkit of tactics. Our foundation will be the contemporary U.S. scene, but we’ll draw on historical roots and lessons from the past, as well as on models from other countries. It will be crucial for us to look at the contexts of global, national and regional movements, and how they shape (and are shaped by) events at the local scale.

In fall quarter we’ll undertake a comparative exploration of strategies and tactics of various social movements in the U.S. and abroad, and critically analyze their effectiveness and applicability. We’ll explore movements based around class and economic equality (such as labor rank-and-file, welfare rights and anti-foreclosure groups), as well as those based around identities of race, nationality and gender (such as civil rights, feminist, Native sovereignty, LGBTQ, and immigrant rights groups). The program will also examine movements that focus on life’s resources, from environmental justice to health, education and housing. Our examinations and explorations will take us across the political spectrum, including lessons from how populist movements effectively reach and mobilize disillusioned people, including right-wing populist movements, such as the Tea Party, pro-life/anti-choice and anti-gay movements, and anti-immigrant, anti-indigenous, and other white supremacist groups.

During winter quarter, we’ll explore the ways that movements emerge and grow, focusing on themes that cut across organizations, and developing practical skills centered on these themes. Our discussions will include how movements reflect and tell people’s stories (through interviews, theater, etc.). Central to our work will be an examination of ways to communicate with people from different walks of life, using accessible language and imagery (through personal interaction, popular education, alternative media, etc.). We’ll critically examine how groups use mainstream institutions to effect change (such as press releases, research centers, legislative tactics, etc.). We’ll examine and critique the use of the internet and social media in networking people, and share innovative uses of culture (film, audio, art, music, etc.). We’ll assess the effectiveness and creativity of actions at different scales (rallies, direct actions, boycotts, etc.). Finally, we will look at relationships between social movements with different organizing styles, and how they have built alliances, as well as the internal dynamics within organizations.

Spring quarter will be a time for in-depth work through different types of projects: comparative critiques of movement strategies, critical social history of a movement, direct work with a local or regional movement, critical exploration of movement literature, or development of media, including such possibilities as social media, short film pieces, photography, web pages, photovoice, and podcasting. Throughout the program, our work will be shaped by a range of community organizers, activists and scholars. Projects will use community-based research and documentation, with a view toward the sharing and presenting of work, in connection with partners and collaborators.

Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
March 18th, 2013 This program is not accepting new enrollment.
November 20th, 2012 This program is not accepting new enrollment