Category Archives: Great Books for Summer Reading 2013

Arts of the Political: New Openings for the Left

By Mark Trekson

Arts of the Political

Ash Amin and Nigel Thrift, Arts of the Political: New Openings for the Left (Duke University Press, 2013)

Arts of the Political: New Openings for the Left, by Ash Amin and Nigel Thrift, isn’t exactly beach reading, but to those interested in a novel effort to link a wide range of political theory to practical politics, it is an interesting and (surprisingly—given the theoretical range it covers) engaging read. With apologies to Claude Levi-Strauss, this is the sort of book that is “good to think with,” especially for readers willing to use its engagement with political thought as a jumping off point for further reading or as a way to understand their own activism in  a new way. That said, while this is a book about social movements, those looking for a direct engagement with what I would consider to be the main currents in social movement theory  (both contemporary and historical) will be disappointed.

Amin and Thrift, at least in the United States, are probably best known to those working in what could loosely be considered “critical” urban geography. Continue reading

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Great Books for Summer Reading: 2013

Many of you (our valued readers) expressed appreciation for our “Great Books for Summer Reading” feature in 2012, so it is back by popular demand. Our goal is to give readers a healthy selection of interesting books for their summer reading lists.  We invited contributors to choose a social movements/protest-related book of the past couple years—whether scholarly or practical, “fact” or fiction, mainstream or not-so-mainstream—and  write a short review.  Many thanks to our great reviewers:

Eitan Y. Alimi, The Hebrew University
Strangers at the Gates (review)

Mustafa Gurbuz, University of South Florida
Islam and the Arab Awakening (review)

Efe Can Gürcan and Gerardo Otero, Simon Fraser University
Change the World Without Taking Power  and Dispersing Power: Social Movements as Anti-State Force (review)

Chris Hausmann, Northwestern College
Goffman Unbound (review)

Aliza Luft, University of Wisconsin-Madison
A Train in Winter (review)

Jin-Wook Shin, Chung-Ang University, Seoul, South Korea
The World Says No to War (review)

Mark Treskon, Center for Working Families, New York
The Arts of the Political: New Openings for the Left (review)

Rens Vliegenthart, University of Amsterdam
Patterns of Protest (review)

Enjoy your summer reading!

Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Dan Myers

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Review: The World Says No to War

By Jin-Wook Shin

The World Says No to War, edited by Stefaan Walgrave and Dieter Rucht (University of Minnesota Press, 2010)

Stefaan Walgrave and Dieter Rucht (eds.). The World Says No to War (University of Minnesota Press, 2010)

On February 15, 2003, when the protest against the war on Iraq took place in London, Madrid, Rome, Berlin, New York, and many other cities of the world, I was writing the last pages of my doctoral dissertation in Berlin and had the opportunity of joining the historic event. I still remember how excited was by the astonishing size, diversity, and vitality of the people who gathered around the Brandenburger Tor at the city center.

It was like a serious political version of a great festival. Parents pushing a stroller, teenagers dancing together, university students holding antiwar drawings by Käthe Kollwitz, and aged couples who seemed to be familiar with all these scenes—so diverse a range of people were saying the same words: “No War!,” “Stop the War!” Continue reading

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Review: Patterns of Protest

By Rens Vliegenthart

Catherine Corrigall-Brown, Patterns of Protest: Trajectories of Participation in Social Movements (Stanford University Press, 2012) Stanford University Press

Catherine Corrigall-Brown, Patterns of Protest: Trajectories of Participation in Social Movements (Stanford University Press, 2012) Stanford University Press

It is a fascinating question and one that intrigues both social movement scholars and activists: why do people participate in contentious politics and protest? And also, why do they remain active or decide to withdraw? It is exactly those questions that Catherine Corrigall-Brown tries to answer in her book Patterns of Protest. Trajectories of Participation in Social Movements. She rightfully argues that most of us carry a misconception of “the” activist as someone who is fully and life-long devoted to one single cause and largely acts within one organization. This type of person, however, is very rare. People get involved in a social movement organization, stay active for a while, but are likely—for one reason or the other—to stop after a certain time completely, or move on to a different organization and/or cause. Continue reading

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Taking a Step towards the Arab Street

By Mustafa Gurbuz

Tariq Ramadam, Islam and the Arab Awakening (Oxford University Press, 2012)

Tariq Ramadam, Islam and the Arab Awakening (Oxford University Press, 2012)

Here is a great summer book: easy read, well-engaged, and more importantly a humble work that avoids haughty attempts to “explain” the social world. “This book makes no claim to reveal secrets, to unveil what may be strategic goals, and even less to predict the future,” writes Tariq Ramadan at the very beginning of Islam and the Arab Awakening. “(T)o do so would be madness, a combination of presumption and vanity.” Did Ramadan, a leading Muslim thinker and a professor at Oxford University, read debates among the social scientists on (un)predictability of revolutions (see Kuran 1991, 1995; Kurzman 2004a, 2004b; Goodwin 2011)? Although much has been said or written to “explain” the so called “Arab Spring,” important questions about “understanding” these popular uprisings is yet to be analyzed.  Continue reading

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Review: A Train in Winter

By Aliza Luft

Caroline Moorhead. A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France (Harper/HarperCollins Publishers 2011)

During World War II, Marshal Pétain’s authoritarian Vichy regime guillotined women for abortion. It passed laws forbidding women from entering the civil service, encouraging women younger than 28 to quit their jobs upon marriage, and requiring women over 50 to retire. Pétain considered women responsible for remaking the state beginning with the family: what he called the “essential cell” of social order. Politically active women were considered a threat to the moral regeneration of France (Muel-Dreyfus 2001; Pollard 1998).

In October 1940, the French Vichy government entered into collaboration with Nazi Germany. Laws were promulgated to restrict the rights of Jews and foreigners, communists and other left-wing activists were declared enemies of the state, and French internment camps were transformed into labor and concentration camps for so-called “undesirables.” Continue reading

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Review: Goffman Unbound! A New Paradigm for the Social Sciences

By Chris Hausmann

Thomas Scheff, Goffman Unbound! A New Paradigm for Social Science (Paradigm Publishers 2006)

Thomas Scheff, Goffman Unbound! A New Paradigm for Social Science (Paradigm Publishers 2006)

In the preface of Goffman Unbound!, Scheff writes, “Goffman’s main focus was what might be called the micro-world of emotions and relationships. We all live in it every day or our lives, yet we have been trained not to notice” (p. viii, emphasis added).

Like many contributors on this blog, I’m currently wrapping up a semester of teaching social movement theory.  My students seem genuinely inspired by sociological accounts of the Civil Rights Movement and Occupy Wall Street, among others. Yet I sometimes worry that, by highlighting large-scale, extra-institutional forms of collective action, my course also trains them to gloss over, or even deny their most immediate experiences of jockeying for leverage. I’m thinking here of arguments with their work supervisors, skirmishes with campus officials, and—as one might suspect—negotiating faculty’s proprietary claims on their attention during the closing days of the semester. Continue reading

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