Great Books for Summer Reading 2021

Every summer, we have a tradition of offering readers a broad selection of great books to add to their summer reading lists. This year we asked contributors to recommend the one book social movement scholars and activists should be reading this summer. Contributors chose their favorite social movement or protest-related book, whether scholarly or activist, fiction or nonfiction, and wrote a short review. In past years, the selection of books has been diverse, and we hope to again offer something of interest to everyone.

Many thanks to our wonderful group of contributors.

Ana Velitchkova, University of Mississippi — Ballad of the Bullet: Gangs, Drill Music, and the Power of Online Infamy (essay)

Barry Eidlin, McGill University — The Southern Key: Class, Race, and Radicalism in the 1930s & 1940s (essay)

Fei Yan, Tsinghua University — Political Movements in an Authoritarian Regime: The Chinese Cultural Revolution Revisited (essay)

Jennifer Earl, University of Arizona — The Hate U Give (essay)

Kai Heidemann, Maastricht University — The Global Police State (essay),

Todd Nicholas Fuist, Illinois Wesleyan University — Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life (essay)

 

Editors in Chief,

Rory McVeigh, David Ortiz, Grace Yukich and Daisy Verduzco Reyes

 

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Social Movements Without Protests: The Politics of Alignment in Social Movements

BY Apoorva Ghosh

Do social movements have to be carried out through protests or other contentious means? When protests wane, does the social movement activity also die out? If no, can the non-disruptive, and the less “visible” nature of challenging target entities be explained through possibilities other than abeyance structures which are still deficient in explaining how outcomes are achieved during periods of non-protest? In other words, should social movement activity be theorized exclusively through the cycles of protests? While several studies—theoretical as well as empirical—do suggest the possibility of carrying out social movements through non-disruptive means, a more robust understanding of social movements carried out entirely without obstructive means was lacking. In other words, we lacked a theoretical alternative to the grand contentious politics model to understand the carrying out of social movements. This theoretical monopoly has received a challenge with the recent publication of the article “The Politics of Alignment and the ‘Quiet Transgender Revolution’ in Fortune 500 Corporations, 2008 to 2017” in Socio-Economic Review. This paper has been recognized through the 2021 CBSM Mayer N. Zald Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Student Paper Award.

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Violence, Social Media, and Market Authenticity: A Review of Ballad of the Bullet: Gangs, Drill Music, and the Power of Online Infamy by Forrest Stuart

By Ana Velitchkova

One of the books from my pandemic reading list that has stayed* with me is Ballad of the Bullet: Gangs, Drill Music, and the Power of Online Infamy by Forrest Stuart. I binge listened to it while exploring my local trails and remember the unease and awe it provoked despite my scenic surroundings. The book opened my eyes to a phenomenon I had no idea existed: a violent social media spectacle that spills into real life. We have known for some time that violence sells in movies and in video games. Forrest Stuart’s Ballad of the Bullet shows that violence sells on social media too. What is fascinating to me, as someone who did not grow up with social media, is that the product sold in the social media marketplace is the image of an “authentic” self. (Young) people nowadays can attempt to make a living by turning themselves into products to sell. Consumers, in turn, can choose which selves to celebrate, i.e. to buy.

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Political Movements in an Authoritarian Regime: The Chinese Cultural Revolution Revisited

BY Fei Yan

The Chinese Cultural Revolution presents students of Chinese politics and history with a remarkable intellectual puzzle. From 1966 to 1968, China experienced an incredibly chaotic period of mass conflict that ranks among the largest political upheavals of the twentieth century. A student rebellion that began in the summer of 1966 spread to industrial workers in the urban areas in late November of that year, and by early 1967 had reached deep into the rural interior. Within a very short period after early January 1967, civilian government in virtually every one of China’s thirty provincial-level units had been overthrown by mass opposition movements. Immediately afterwards, these insurgents broke into rival factions that clashed violently in schools, factories, and neighborhoods, leading to anarchy in large parts of China until the imposition of military rule in late 1968.

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The Persistent Power of Pride? Looking ‘past’ 2020

BY Phillip Ayoub, Douglas Page, and Sam Whitt

Do prides still yield the transformative potential to change society? This month’s Prides, and their cancelation in 2020, invite us to reflect on their contemporary purpose, and return to the ethos of their past.

“Maybe it’s not so bad that Pride is canceled … After all, the silence allows us to stop, reflect, and ask ‘What exactly is Pride?’” – Historian Eric Cervini

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Undergraduate Teaching and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

By Jennifer Earl

As social movement scholars, we recognize the ways in which the information environment social movements face is much different than it was 20 years ago. Some of this has to do with the rise of digital and social media, some of it has to do with the rise of 24/7 cable news and other significant changes in journalism, and a non-negligible portion has to do with the very active role that people play in selecting what information they will be exposed to, attend to, believe, and act upon. Our classrooms are no different—students are active learners who are deciding what assignments they will complete and how deeply they will engage the material. If you teach in a more conservative state, as I do, you routinely teach students who question the value of social science research and/or are motivated to not believe social science research that conflicts with their pre-existing beliefs or political commitments. Progressive students can also approach material with preconceived ideas about what research is likely to find and misunderstand the surprises and nuance.  Continue reading

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Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life, by Kari Marie Norgaard: A Review

BY Todd Nicholas Fuist

If you’re anything like me, you spent a not-insignificant chunk of 2020 marveling in dismayed awe at the cavalier ability of so many peopleeveryone from folks in your community to celebrities to government officialsto engage in various forms of denial about the Covid-19 pandemic. Certainly, some of the most visible deniers were those who adamantly refused to believe that the pandemic was happening at all. Yet, an equally prominent strain of Covid denialism came in the form of people who acknowledged the crisis yet seemed not to care. You almost certainly heard comments from people you know like “I’m not going to live in fear” or “it’s no worse than a regular flu” or “what are we supposed to do, destroy our whole economy to save a few lives?” Even as doctors and scientists proposed actionable solutions for individuals and societies to take that could mitigate the harmful effects of the pandemic, the inertia of people’s lives and the underlying logic of our systems were, it seemed, too powerful to be moved by even the gravest of threats.  Continue reading

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The Southern Key: Class, Race, and Radicalism in the 1930s & 1940s by Michael Goldfield

BY Barry Eidlin

The U.S. Civil Rights Movement (CRM) from the mid-1950s through the mid-1970s has served as the template for contemporary social movement scholarship. Not only has the movement itself been the most widely studied, but many of the core theoretical concepts, most notably political process theory, either were developed as part of explaining the emergence and development of the CRM, or had the CRM as a key empirical vantage point.

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Perspectives on Power: A Review of ‘The Global Police State’ by William I. Robinson

By Kai Heidemann

As a sociologist working full-time at a Dutch university, I find that my summer readings come in many flavors, which range from pure escapism to essential must reads. My recommendation to social movement scholars for this summer definitely falls in this latter category. “The Global Police State” by William I. Robinson (Pluto Press, 2020) is a relatively small book that addresses some very big questions about contemporary issues of power and repression that are of immediate relevance to social movement scholars and activists alike. Although firmly grounded in critical and neo-Marxian strands of global comparative sociology, this book is intended for a broad audience and packaged as a quick read. I especially recommend this book to scholars who tend to engage in micro-level and cultural analyses of social movements, such as myself, as Robinson’s work does very well to spark some serious macro-sociological thinking about the material and class-based relations of power that contribute to the widespread silencing and subjugation of progressive social movements around the world.

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Simultaneous Battlefields: Containing Threats from Far-Right Extremists and Institutional Conservatives

BY Megan Brooker

The insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 highlighted the urgency of contending with the far-right forces emboldened by former President Trump. Beyond pressuring Democrats to follow through on progressive promises, the left must also fight simultaneous battles of containment aimed at suppressing both the threat of direct violence posed by far-right extremists and that of indirect violence levied by institutional conservatives via policies that disproportionately harm marginalized communities.

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