Social Movement Leadership

From Martin Luther King Jr. to Susan B. Anthony, and from Cesar Chavez to Gloria Steinem, the most prominent social movement leaders capture the public’s attention. Yet understanding social movement leaders requires a wider focus than charisma and force of will. We dedicate this next Mobilizing Ideas dialogue to the topic of leaders and leadership. We ask our contributors to consider such topics such as the development of leaders, conflicts between leaders, leader cooptation, and the interactions of personal biography with contexts.

Many thanks to our fantastic group of contributors.

Andrew Martin, Ohio State University (essay)
Amanda Pullum, California State University, Monterey Bay (essay)

Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo

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Coalition-Building through “Everyday” Social Movement Leadership

By Amanda Pullum

When I ask my students to tell me about social movement leadership, they often paint one of two metaphorical pictures. The first is of well-known leaders—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, and others—whose contributions are usually described in overly broad terms. The second is of so-called “leaderless” movements, like Occupy, in which modern technology and strategic innovation are thought to enable diffuse decision-making processes, with no individuals in true leadership roles. Continue reading

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Just What Do We Mean by Leadership Anyway?

By Andrew Martin

For as long as there have been social movements, popular culture has been quick to either laud or demonize leaders of popular protest (and often those that were once scorned eventually become mythical heroes). The successes enjoyed by the Civil Rights movement was due to the effort of numerous organizations and thousands of activists willing to put their life on the line, yet Martin Luther King jr. remains the face of racial struggle in America. He is, for many Americans, a symbol of justice and the personification of racial equality. The list of other social movement leaders and revolutionaries, both loved and hated, is extensive: Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks, Caesar Chavez and the farmworkers movement, Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution, Susan B. Anthony and the women’s suffrage movement, to name just a few. Continue reading

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Race, Gender, and the Study of Far Right Social Movements: An Interview with Kathleen Blee

Professor Kathleen Blee is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. She is author of four books and recipient of numerous awards for her research and teaching. Much of her research focuses on right-wing social movements, specifically gender in organized racism.

Pundits and scholars alike have pointed to what appears to be increasing visibility of far right figures and ideas in mainstream media and popular culture. Below is an edited transcript of an interview I conducted with Blee in December about what her research can tell us about the results of the November election, how organized racism is changing in the 21st century, and what this means for social movement scholars going forward. Continue reading

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New Documentary Film – The Activists: War, Peace, and Politics in the Streets

Bullfrog Films has released a new educational documentary film, titled The Activists, which may be of interest to many of the readers of Mobilizing Ideas. Michael T. Heaney, author of Party in the Street: The Antiwar Movement and the Democratic Party after 9/11 (Cambridge 2015), is among the producers of the project, along with Melody Shemtov and Marco Roldán. The film is priced for purchase by libraries. Discounts are available for community groups or to rent the film. Heaney is available to Skype to your classroom or community group if you show the film. More information is available here: http://www.bullfrogfilms.com/catalog/acts.html

Synopsis

Activists and activism have long been a part of the struggle for peace and justice in American politics and society. Activists have fought battles for civil rights, voter enfranchisement, collective bargaining, and an end to wars. While these struggles have sometimes yielded significant victories, and at other times resulted in disappointing defeats, activism has always been driven by ordinary people who give freely of their time and resources to try to bring about their visions for a new world. However, activists – as well how they fit into the political process – are often overlooked or misunderstood by their fellow citizens. Continue reading

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The Arab Spring Sixth Years On: Part 2

Six years ago, after starting with the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a wave of protests in the Arabian Middle East toppled several governments and gave voice to a new generation of activists. Mobilizing Ideas marks this anniversary with a dialogue entitled, “Movement Trajectories: The Arab Spring Six Years On.” For a second month we ask our contributors to consider the pathways of movements after the period of mass mobilization, specifically looking at the countries of the Arab Spring.

Many thanks to our fantastic group of contributors.

Rauf Arif, Texas Tech University (essay)
Dana M. Moss, University of Pittsburgh (essay)
Daniel Ritter, Stockholm University (essay)

Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo

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From the Arab Spring to the Muslim Ban: Diaspora Activists Oppose Authoritarianism at Home and Abroad

By Dana M. Moss

The Arab Spring and its early victories heralded new hope for liberal change in the Middle Eastern region. Six years later, its aftermath has wrought unfathomable tragedies. War in Yemen has produced the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe, leaving 19 million (69% of the population) in urgent need of aid and 10 million on the brink of starvation. Thousands have been killed in Libya’s ongoing civil war between government forces loyal to an autocratic general, local militias, and extremists. Syria has become a theater of horrors leaving half a million dead and 13 million in need of humanitarian aid. About five million Syrians have fled, and those who remain risk being bombarded from the sky, starved on the ground, and tortured to death in regime prisons. Continue reading

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