As neo-confederate protesters clashed with protesters supporting the taking down of a confederate monument on campus at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, it felt impossible to divorce these recent protests from their historical context. During the 1913 dedication of Silent Sam, the unnamed soldier commemorating those who left college to defend the confederacy, supporters like student Julian Carr called to the historical linkage with the statue. After Dixie played in the background, Carr proudly told the audience of racial violence he himself engaged in just 100 yards from the site of the statue. The “memorial gateway to campus,” as then President Venable referred to it, stood at the entry way to one of the largest thoroughfares at UNC until last week when it was knocked down by protesters.
The statue has been the site of several waves of protest on campus since it’s erection, with increasing frequency in recent years. Thinking back to the origin story of Silent Sam calls us as social movement scholars to push further down a road that historians and economists have paved – a focus on the impacts of historical legacies of slavery. We can ask questions yet to be answered about how histories of racial violence shape activism in communities.
The years of protest around the contentious figure on campus only further demonstrate that legacies of slavery directly impact contemporary experiences. Beyond the well-documented impacts of legacies of racial violence at the city and state level, assuredly there are microcosms on campuses, in communities, and around various statues and memorials that provide opportunities to understand how history shapes modern-era events. Recent events like the one at UNC call us as scholars to develop an understanding of the mechanism by which these legacies shape mobilization.
Lapegna, Pablo (2016), Soybeans and Power: Genetically Modified Crops, Environmental Politics, and Social Movements in Argentina (New York: Oxford University Press).
Soybeans and Power by Pablo Lapegna takes the case of a rural community in Formosa (a northern province of Argentina that borders on Paraguay) to explore a crucial question for social movement studies: how to explain the demobilization of a social movement. A poor community of peasants experiencing local-level impacts of the global process of adoption of genetically modified crops (GMCs) and agrochemicals reacts differently in two instances. In the first instance, in the face of health and economic consequences associated with GMCs cultivation, it responds by mobilizing. In another instance, it reacts to the same consequences differently—by actively demobilizing. These seemingly contradictory strategies leads the author to propose an answer to the crucial question of why people sometimes choose to mobilize and sometimes to demobilize on the same issues and with similar grievances. According to Lapegna, cooptation and clientelism are insufficient explanations, and in this case there is no repression. Therefore, he proposes viewing demobilization as an agency-based process (p. 14, 16) that requires an ethnographic approach in order to appreciate the multiple layers at play in these sorts of dynamics, without overemphasizing the role of the elites while grasping the actors’ understandings of the dynamics at hand. Continue reading
Parkland is increasingly portrayed as the mass shooting that will finally change things, but are pro-gun supporters right to claim that it is but another headline that gun control advocates are allegedly peddling will bring stricter gun control laws? Continue reading
In recent years, a central question for politics in South America has centered on the effect that the emergence of right-wing governments will have on grassroots mobilization throughout the region. Will organizations whose influence expanded during the “pink tide” of progressive administrations decline substantially? Or will they be able to use the resources, expertise, and networks accumulated since the early 2000s to maintain their leverage? Continue reading
On August 28, 1988, on the 25th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech, a smaller crowd marched to the Lincoln Memorial to draw attention to Dr. King’s “deferred dreams” and the rollback of civil rights gains under the Reagan administration. In a statement, Coretta Scott King applauded the diverse marchers as she declared, “[Dr. King’s] dream of justice, equality and national unity is not the exclusive property of any race, religion or political party.” Continue reading
On September 23rd, Bernice King, Marin Luther King Jr’s daughter, tweeted this picture with the caption “The real shame & disrespect is that, decades after the 1st photo, racism STILL kills people & corrupts systems. #America #TakeAKnee @POTUS.”
Starting in the 1980s, Latin America has experienced an unprecedented wave of democratization. A region with a long history of military dictatorships, human rights violations, and fraudulent elections managed to sustain governments elected by citizens and high levels of political and civil freedoms. Latin American countries continue to struggle with high levels of poverty and inequality, and their governments are not immune to authoritarian attempts. Yet the overall predominance of democracy in this region is a remarkable achievement given its past. Continue reading
Since the election of Donald Trump, protests have become increasingly commonplace in the United States, both in the nation’s capital and in towns and cities across the country. This recent wave of mass mobilization has led to growing considerations about how the new political climate might be changing civic engagement, particularly for young people. In June, Phase 1 of the 2017 Millennial Impact Report1 was released. The findings are based on interviews and focus groups with 16 millennials who previously downloaded the report; selecting for youth likely to be engaged. The press release for the report read “Will Millennials Turn Your Cause Into a Movement?” This is a complicated and potentially unanswerable question, but one whose answer could greatly impact movement scholarship. While the report cannot answer the long-standing question of how extensively youth drive social movements, it does offer some insights that are useful and potentially challenging to movement theory. Continue reading
This year saw numerous episodes of mobilization by immigrants and non-immigrants alike. In Sweden, protesters mobilized against police in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood of Stockholm. Protesters in Cologne, Germany organized against the anti-immigration party, the AfD. London protesters held an event at the U.S. embassy in London against Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban.” And, protesters in the U.S. mobilized against Trump and his administration’s views and positions on immigration with “A Day Without Immigrants.” Continue reading