What’s Next? Public Religion in the United States

BY Evan Stewart

Like many of us, I watched the inauguration last month as both a citizen and a scholar trying to catch a glimpse of what was next. Having just wrapped my undergraduate course “Politics in the Digital Age” (taught over Zoom, poetically), I was eager to see whether my students’ smart observations about media, activism, and policy would come to pass in some of the first major public signals from the new administration.

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Opposing the Qultists: Activism in the post-Truth era

BY Edwin Hodge

I remember the first interview I gave at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. The journalist was with the Canadian Press and looking for a sociologist to comment on the challenges posed by public health orders and isolation in the Canadian context. He wanted to know what the single greatest challenge to people might be; I think he was expecting to hear something about suicide rates, depression, or mental fatigue, so when I answered, “conspiracy theories,” he laughed.

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“Trump may be gone, but the threat to Black lives isn’t. I hope people don’t act like it.”

By Simone N. Durham

“I hate to say it, but I almost think the movement would be better off in the long run if he wins.”

These are words I was shocked to hear come out of my own mouth in a conversation about Trump and the 2020 presidential election in June, 2020. At the time, we were in the midst of the largest wave of #BlackLivesMatter protest since the movement’s emergence in 2013. Both scholars and activists expressed that this wave was unique in its size and power. It propelled BLM to the status of the largest movement in U.S. history. Many argued that this moment marked the start of an unparalleled push for racial justice – one of such magnitude in comparison to past efforts that it could be the tipping point for antiracist activism that would finally lead to real change. But with the election looming and people framing Biden and Harris as the obvious choice (compared to Trump) for those invested in the fight racial justice, I still had concerns about what that outcome might mean for #BlackLivesMatter. Time and time again in interviews I have conducted with Black millennials about the #BlackLivesMatter movement, respondents have expressed a lack of hope for achieving racial equity and eradicating white supremacy in this country. As a sociologist acutely aware of the embedded and structural nature of racism, it’s often hard for me to feel hope for a future free from racism as well. And as the BLM protests of summer 2020 proliferated at the same time as discussions about racial politics and the 2020 election intensified, I found myself at a loss as to what electoral outcome I felt would actually propel the movement and the change it seeks forward to fruition.

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Vol.II What’s Next? Activism and Social Justice in the Aftermath of the Trump Presidency

Despite receiving more than seventy million votes, Donald Trump went down in defeat in November, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are preparing to take over the White House. At this moment, we think it is important for scholars and activists to think about the potential consequences of a Trump defeat for the causes that have brought activists into the streets over the past four years. Since his inauguration in January of 2017, Trump represented an existential threat to social justice for people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, immigrants, and poor and working class people. At the same time, he emboldened activists and hate group members on the extreme right. We would like to publish essays that give us tools for imagining how activism will change with Trump’s departure, and how activist organizations can repair the damage that Trump has caused while also advancing beyond a return to the pre-Trump status quo.

This month, we have four outstanding contributors. Many thanks for their contributions on this topic:

We also have some other contributors on this topic, please check Vol.I last month.

 

Editors in Chief,

Rory McVeigh, David Ortiz, Grace Yukich and Daisy Verduzco Reyes

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Mobilizing for academic freedom and the future of higher education

Growing student debt, rising tuition, institutional racism, and the concerns over the attacks on universities’ autonomy have triggered protests over the past decade that have opened up further analyses of young people’s political participation (Cini and Guzman-Goncha 2017, Earl, Maher and Elliott 2017, Türkoğlu 2019). As social movement scholars that study movements in the field of higher education, we usually focus on the students or the faculty as the main actors in these mobilizations. It is often harder to study the gray area where potential stakeholders might choose between the roles of bystanders and participants because of their personal ties to the hallowed halls. The alumni stand in this gray zone. When the president of Turkey appointed a former politician from his own party, who has never held an administrative role in a public university, as the rector[1] of Boğaziçi University, the infringement on academic autonomy not only mobilized the students and the faculty but also the alumni.

Government restrictions on academic autonomy and the opposition to these restrictions have become increasingly common in the past few years. In the United Kingdom, the government announced sanctions on universities to “protect free speech” which education unions interpreted as yet another government intervention to limit academic autonomy. In the United States, only a couple of years ago, President Trump signed an executive order to ensure “free speech on college campuses” which was a triumph for conservative student activists. In France, the government announced an investigation into social science research as part of their mission against what Macron and his ministers call “Islamo-leftism.” Government authorities use this label for scholars who advance “radical” and “activist” ideas such as “systemic racism” in France. Not surprisingly, academic institutions issued public statements to convey their opposition to the attacks on academic freedom. As government policies aiming to limit academic freedoms lead to mobilizations big and small in different countries, a noteworthy mobilization for the defense of academic freedom has emerged in Turkey.

Boğaziçi University campus in Istanbul has hosted faculty and student protests for two months. Student protests are quite common in Turkey and elsewhere. Faculty protests are less frequent but still not too extraordinary. However, it is quite uncommon for all faculty to protest the appointment of a university president turning their back against the rectorate -rain, shine, or snow [see the photo above, credit: Can Candan]. Furthermore, they have refused to take part in administrative duties until the newly-appointed rector resigns. To put these protests in context, I should note that the higher education system in Turkey has taken a turn towards hyper-centralization since 2016, when the government consolidated all of the decision-making powers regarding the inner workings of universities through government-appointed rectors. Boğaziçi has had a somewhat unique position because it was able to maintain a decentralized consensus-based governance structure in a public university and enforce a merit-based system that kept the university among the highest-ranking research universities in Turkey. What is also quite uncommon within the global context of mobilization for academic freedoms is to see students arrested, LGBTQ students demonized, academics targeted in delegitimization efforts, and the university gates handcuffed.

Nevertheless, these repression tactics and the attacks targeting prominent faculty seem to have backfired. The faculty of prominent public and private universities issued public statements in support of Boğaziçi university faculty and students, college students in various universities organized solidarity protests and issued public statements, even the high school alumni from different cities signed open letters. The international community including the EU raised concerns that carry political weight as 60% of the Turkish citizens still favor EU accession.  More importantly, the majority of the Turkish public favor university-held elections for rector appointments, including those who voted for the governing party.

Amidst all these developments, the alumni of Boğaziçi University also mobilized. Alumni associations issued a joint declaration to voice their disapproval of the government-appointed rector and articulated their commitment to Boğaziçi values including academic freedom. They have organized petition campaigns and coordinated protest activities online. Only a small number of alumni have been allowed on campus due to the pandemic restrictions but alumni associations have been sending representatives to stand with the protesting students and faculty in front of the rectorate. In a survey I conducted with 1,131 alumni who graduated from different departments in different decades, more than 99% favored a mechanism that involve an election within the universities (see in Turkish Türkoğlu 2021). This is an important finding because the sample included alumni who voted for different parties, left and right. While protests in the streets are a high-risk activity due to the pandemic and government restrictions, a majority (around 70 percent) participated in online protests/campaigns. Even those who did not participate in the protests approved of the opposition for the most part. These surprising results, in a country where the political culture is deeply polarized, indicate an important venue for the study of social movements that aim for higher education policy change.


[1] Rector is the highest administrative position in a university in Turkey. The position holds extensive administrative and academic powers such as faculty and staff hires, budget allocations, revisions of university regulations, and approval of academic activities including grant applications and academic conferences.

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What’s Next? Activism and Social Justice in the Aftermath of the Trump Presidency

Despite receiving more than seventy million votes, Donald Trump went down in defeat in November, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are preparing to take over the White House. At this moment, we think it is important for scholars and activists to think about the potential consequences of a Trump defeat for the causes that have brought activists into the streets over the past four years. Since his inauguration in January of 2017, Trump represented an existential threat to social justice for people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, immigrants, and poor and working class people. At the same time, he emboldened activists and hate group members on the extreme right. We would like to publish essays that give us tools for imagining how activism will change with Trump’s departure, and how activist organizations can repair the damage that Trump has caused while also advancing beyond a return to the pre-Trump status quo.

This month, we have seven outstanding contributors. Many thanks for their contributions on this topic:

 

Editors in Chief,

Rory McVeigh, David Ortiz, Grace Yukich and Daisy Verduzco Reyes

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Elections Really Matter

BY Edwin Amenta

It is hard to overstate the importance of the recent election results to campaigns for social justice. The defeat of President Donald Trump by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris—plus the Democratic control of Congress—flips the script. Activists who would be hoping at best to delay further negative action from the Trump administration by way of protest may now expect real advances to their causes and missions through governmental action.

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Building Prisms of the People

BY Michelle Oyakawa

It is already very clear that the forces Trump unleashed will not go away just because he lost the 2020 election. Furthermore, the deeply entrenched social problems that Trump exploited and exacerbated are also not going away. Extreme inequality, racism, climate change, and the coronavirus pandemic continue to drive social instability and political violence. 

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Beckoned by the Big Hearts! Where to Begin

BY Anna Brown

Honestly, I am not sure where to begin writing about organizing in a post-Trump world. The appalling spectacle of armed white rage loosed on the Capitol on January 6th makes one hard-pressed to claim that “Trumpism” is going away any time soon. Also, I find that I never moved beyond the brutality of Attorney Jeff Session’s “Zero Tolerance Policy,” a policy that directed government agents to rip screaming immigrant children, toddlers, and babies from the arms of their parents. To this day, there are over 600 such children whom we have not reunited with their parents. The reality of inflicting that kind of brutality – along with an accompanying callous indifference – on other human beings is the stuff of nightmares.

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What’s Next: Activism and Social Justice in the Aftermath of the Trump Presidency

BY Doug McAdam

 

Suggested further reading:

Doug McAdam and Karina Kloos.  2014.  Deeply Divided: Racial Politics and Social Movements in Postwar America.  Oxford University Press.

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by | January 20, 2021 · 9:00 AM