The relationship between courts and social movements is a complex one and a rich academic and activist literature has evolved around it. Simplifying somewhat, the academic literature can be divided into two broad camps. First, there is the predominantly U.S. work in the law and society tradition, which has explored the utility of using the courts as vehicles for social change, with classic “anti”s like Rosenberg and his Hollow Hope (1991) and “pro”s like McCann (1994). This work itself arises out of earlier classics on legal mobilization such as Marc Galanter’s “Why the ‘Haves’ Come Out Ahead” (1974). A significant proportion of it is focused on movement outcomes and debates about the success of litigation as a strategy. Continue reading
This past June, President Obama took executive action to defer the deportation of “Dreamers”: undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, are under 30, have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, and have no criminal records. The policy represents a small but important victory for immigrant rights activists, many of whom are religious. Their religiosity is worth noting for two reasons. First, in an age when the dominant public image of religion is often politically and theologically conservative, this serves as a reminder that “progressive religion” is not an oxymoron. Second, increasing immigration to the U.S. is transforming American religion, altering dominant traditions through the integration of new immigrants and diversifying the general landscape through the growth of religious traditions like Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Some estimates suggest that 40 percent of Catholics in the U.S. are now Mexican or Latin American immigrants.1 This religious context forces even majority-native-born religious groups to recognize the suffering of immigrants in their midst, evidenced by efforts like the Catholic Justice for Immigrants campaign. Continue reading
Devoted to nonviolent conflict and civil resistance, the new issue of Research in Social Movements, Conflict, and Change is available now. The volume provides a wide range of case studies around the world including Northern Ireland, Turkey, Iran, Post-Communist States, and Palestine. The articles are also engaging with new conceptual paradigms. In our article, Thou Shall Not Protest!, Mary Bernstein and I utilized Multi-Institutional Perspective approach to explain non-confrontational strategies of some Islamic activists. The issue editors, Sharon Nepstad and Lester Kurtz, introduced Thou Shall Not Protest! as the following:
Another chapter in this volume addresses Sharp’s singular focus on the state and political power. Mustafa Gurbuz and Mary Bernstein examine two Islamic movements in Turkey that responded differently to a conflict over a politician’s decision to wear a headscarf in parliament. The National Outlook movement mobilized demonstrations while the Gulen movement did not. Gurbuz and Bernstein argue that the latter group’s decision was rooted in their belief that power is dispersed throughout civil society and therefore the state should not be the sole target for resistance activities. Instead of directly confronting political authorities, Gulen organizers chose “strategic nonconfrontation” so that they could pursue their goals through other avenues such as contesting everyday cultural practices. Thus, the authors reveal how new forms of nonviolent resistance become evident when we expand our view beyond the state and challenges to political authorities.