Even during times of ‘normalcy’, or non-protest cycles, African descendants’ structural realities are constrained and shaped by oppressive targeting due to pervasive, institutionalized racism and capitalist exploitation. Repression against black people’s resistance activities historically has been especially heightened and involving a considerable amount of violence and public spectacle. For example, during enslavement those who escaped or rebelled were publicly whipped, beheaded in town squares, and subject to medieval torture devices. Prior to the Haitian Revolution, the most successful enslaved people’s rebellion, the French ‘breaking wheel’ was used to disembowel known maroon leaders. Co-conspirators in Denmark Vesey’s 1822 plot in South Carolina were publicly hanged; and members of the 1811 German Coast uprising in Louisiana were beheaded and had their heads put on spikes dotted along a major river. In each case, these measures were used to deter other rebels from taking their freedom into their own hands by standing up to societies that were founded on the assumption and structuration of black inferiority and subjugation. Continue reading
Yu, Henry (2001) Thinking Orientals: Migration, Contact, and Exoticism in Modern America, New York: NY: Oxford University Press.
One of the joys of specializing in social movements is that so many of my colleagues are personally invested in activism on a grounded level. Most of us study movements because we care about social justice and want to understand how change happens or doesn’t happen. There are positives and negatives to this. We have a passion for rigorous research, but this passion can bias our work. Also, feeling detached and isolated within the “ivory tower” can create an academic existential crisis, especially for scholars who want to somehow benefit the movements they study. For these reasons, I chose to review Thinking Orientals: Migration, Contact, and Exoticism in Modern America, by Henry Yu (2001). It’s a theoretically driven historical account of Asian American studies in the Chicago School’s Sociology Department. Although it’s not directly related to social movements, it is entirely relevant to the pros and cons of being scholars who are personally invested in the subject(s) of our research. Continue reading
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. Here is the second installment of our Great Books for Summer Reading 2017 collection:
Many thanks to our wonderful group of contributors.
Jonathan Coley, Monmouth College (essay)
Erin Evans, University California-Irvine (essay)
Christopher Hausmann, Northwestern College (essay)
Justin Van Ness, University of Notre Dame (essay)
Ana Velitchkova, University of Mississippi (essay)
Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo
This month, LGBT people in cities across the U.S. are celebrating Pride Month. Two weekends ago, Chicago, the city where I write this review, hosted its “Pride Fest” full of concerts, drag shows, and (of course) partying. This past weekend, the city hosted its annual pride parade, a three-hour procession comprised of nearly every LGBT sub-group you could imagine and parent groups, churches, business, and politicians that support the LGBT community. An estimated one million spectators lined the streets to watch the parade. Continue reading
Timothy Ingold. 2015. The Life of Lines. Routledge. Taylor & Francis Group.
Summer is a good time to read The Life of Lines. The book will urge you to see summer’s events—from brewing storms clouds and burrowing worms to rattling box fans, as central to theory-building.
This book might seem like an odd recommendation on Mobilizing Ideas; it includes only occasional references to political mobilization. What it offers, instead, are stunningly detailed insights into how living beings entangle one another and with their surroundings. This specificity is a useful reminder of what falls through the cracks when we talk and write about collective action; it also gives a glimpse of what how our theories could move forward. To understand the entanglements of living, Ingold argues, one must learn about lines.
As a newcomer in the South and a returnee to what seemed to be a new United States, I was eager to understand this new environment. Why were there so many people supporting a presidential candidate like Donald Trump? How has a fringe movement like the Tea Party become mainstream? Strangers in Their Own Land unquestionably provides answers. Its author, Arlie Russell Hochschild, a Berkeley sociologist known for ethnographies like The Managed Heart and The Second Shift, was interested in just that: understand a worldview that was foreign to her own too. Hochschild ventures into this worldview through a narrower question, understanding how people devastated by environmental disasters in Louisiana would end up supporting candidates whose goals include the elimination of the EPA, the very agency tasked with preventing such disasters. The empathy goal with which Hochschild embarks on her journey of discovery and the strong connections she reportedly establishes with her interlocutors who vouch for the seriousness of her effort. It is important to note that, while providing understanding, Hochschild is by no means supportive of the worldviews she encounters. The richness of the ethnographic details and the vividness of her accounts are certainly noteworthy. I will focus, however, on some of the main theoretical points that emerge from the book. Continue reading
Over the past 30 years, police forces have become militarized both culturally and materially (see Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop). While much attention has been given to the roots in the “war on drugs” and the “war on terror,” there is less research on the implications of police militarization for social movements, particularly religious movements. In Storming Zion, Stuart Wright and Susan Palmer provide a thorough study of the ways in which religious minorities are subjected to paramilitary raids, often solely on the basis of accusations from apostates and counter-movement organizations. By focusing on the often excessive use of force on religious minorities, this book fills an important yet understudied gap in the literature and is a particularly good resource for anyone interested in religious movements, counter-movements, social control and repression, and trans-national movements. Continue reading