Category Archives: Great Books for Summer Reading

This essay dialogue aims to give readers a healthy selection of great books for their summer reading lists. We invited contributors to choose their favorite social movements/protest-related book of the past couple years, whether scholarly, activist, or fiction, and write a short review. Although mainstream academic social movements texts were welcome, we encouraged contributors to consider books that most readers might not know about, such as non-scholarly books that don’t get reviewed in academic journals. We include scholars from a wide range of disciplines as well as a variety of activists in an effort to give our readers a broad list of selections.

LEADING TEAMS (or, How Social Movement Leaders Are Like Flight Attendants, Semiconductor Manufacturers, and Second Violinists)

By Matthew Baggetta

What does this image have to do with social movements? More than you might expect.

It is increasingly common for social movement scholars to bemoan the lack of theory and research on leadership in social movements. There’s a good reason for this: there’s not enough out there. We know a bit about who becomes a movement leader. We know a bit about how they become leaders. We know a bit about what the leadership experience does to leaders over time. And we know a bit about what leaders (sometimes) (probably) do. There’s clearly a lot of ground left to cover.

One way to advance our understanding is to shift from thinking about leadership as something individuals do to thinking about leadership as the outputs from leadership teams (recent works by Marshall Ganz, Francesca Polletta, and others have started pushing us in such directions). Making this conceptual shift refocuses our attention away from the particulars of what certain leaders have done and toward the organizational and interactional contexts within which they operated. The most brilliant tactical innovation or issue frame is highly context dependent. But the settings from which brilliant ideas spring forth may not be. In effect, to understand movement leadership, we might be better off asking why some leadership teams work better than others. Continue reading



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Women on the Verge

Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983
by Barbara Kingsolver. ILR Press, 1989.

By Jennifer Earl

When I was approached about writing a blog on good summer reading, I knew exactly what book I would write about—Barbara Kingsolver’s first book, which was non-fiction, Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983. I read this book for the first time when I was in graduate school. I was taking a seminar on politics and organizations from Cal Morrill and Mayer Zald. I am not sure which one of them, or both, had decided to include the book, but it was fantastic. From a stylistic perspective, it’s great summer reading because Kingsolver brings all of the novelist’s intrigue and style into this non-fiction work (which also makes it a wonderful monograph for an undergraduate class). Her exceptional writing makes the book an effortless read and yet the lessons you can take from the book might haunt you for years, as they have for me.

Substantively, the focus of the book is on the Great Mine Strike of 1983 in Arizona. Phelps Dodge is the primary antagonist in the story, and the unions representing minors in several Arizona cities are the protagonists. Continue reading


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What WE Have Done: An Oral History of the Disability Rights Movement

By David Pettinicchio

What WE Have Done: An Oral History of the Disability Rights Movement, by Fred Pelka. Amherst and Boston: UMass Press, 2002.

Fred Pelka’s recent book, What WE Have Done: An Oral History of the Disability Rights Movement, is not a traditional scholarly text which analyzes the dynamics of the disability rights movement. The book is based on in-depth interviews mostly with key activists from three sources: Pelka’s own interviews, interviews recorded by the group Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), and oral histories from the Oral History Office of the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. The book is structured around key events and places in the disability rights struggle, predominantly focusing on the politics of the Americans with Disabilities Act (although the interviews and accounts capture a lengthy historical period as many of those interviewed provide recollections of the past going back as far as the 1950s). Admittedly in his preface, Pelka claims that the chapters and interviews are not always presented in chronological order but rather tend to move back and forth through time in order to capture the thoughts of activists about a specific event, organization or policy. Pelka’s voice is mostly present in his preface and to a lesser extent, in his introductory chapter where there is a blend of analysis and interviews. His first chapter provides a fairly straightforward and traditional historical background of the disability struggle which is found in other texts that trace the history of disability rights and the disability rights movement. The rest of the book is largely structured around the oral history he presents. Continue reading


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The Revolution Will Not Be Funded

By Karen Gargamelli

The Revolution Will Not Be Funded,
Edited by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence. South End Press, 2001

This book serves as an important warning to young and well-intentioned activists and organizers. Beware! The Non-Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC) corrupts radical minds.  The Revolution Will Not Be Funded was published the year my friends and I graduated from the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law—a small, progressive law school designed to produced “lawyers in the service of human needs.” It was evident to us, even as young graduates, that the NPIC had co-opted many of our mentors and that it would soon deflate and paralyze many of our lively and passionate classmates.  We wanted to resist the NPIC and its works and its empty promises.

Myself and two others from the Class of 2007 used The Revolution Will Not Be Funded as a guide to help us interpret and navigate the world of foundations and other 501(c)(3)s. We used this book to found our own organizations—Common Law, Inc. in 2007 and Organizing4Occupation in 2011.  Continue reading


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Challenging Operations: Medical Reform and Resistance in Surgery

By Fabio Rojas

Challenging Operations: Medical Reform and Resistance in Surgery
by Kate C. Kellogg, The University of Chicago Press, 2011.

“Good evening, everyone. My name is Captain Fred Jones. I’ll be your pilot today. It’s my pleasure to take you from Chicago to Miami. We’ll be departing in a few minutes, once we complete our pre-flight checklist and get some fresh pretzels.”

“The flight should be uneventful , except for Hurricane Peggy, which is now hitting Miami. Even though I haven’t slept in forty-eight hours, I’m fully confident that I can fly this sucker through 100 mph winds and rain. You see, flying without sleep is part of my training. Every pilot is required to go through an extensive training program where we will go days without sleep and get wild and crazy. Just this morning, I helped someone fly a helicopter onto an oil rig in a snowstorm.”

“Yes, you may have heard about the new regulations that limit work shifts for trainees. You might also be aware of the massive amount of research showing that sleep deprivation undermines nearly all cognitive skills. But those ignorant folks have never piloted a plane themselves. They don’t know that flying a Boeing 737 requires super tough hombres who’ve been through the hardest training. Getting you all killed this evening is an integral part of our education. It builds character.”

“The pretzels are here! Thanks for flying. Enjoy your trip to Miami.” Continue reading

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