Political Science | Social Movements
Y490 | 25558 | Sissenich

Protests and social movements arise in virtually all political
systems, no matter how democratic or repressive. In this seminar, we
will explore why movements emerge when they do, what forms they
take, and what outcomes they produce. What does it take to generate
sustained political contention? What makes individuals join
protests? And why do some situations not generate any contentious
action at all, even if they seem to cry out for mass protest? Why
are some movements local, while others spread across many countries?
Why are some movements peaceful, whereas others resort to violence?
How do relations between the state and society change in the course
of contentious action?

We will examine sociological and political theories of contention
through the lens of case studies and with the help of a textbook.
Cases will include the US civil rights movement, labor, organized
racism, the Chinese democracy movement, transnational solidarity,
Islamic activism, and peasant resistance. The case material covers
democratic and non-democratic forms of government. Students must be
prepared to read and discuss challenging social science texts; on
average, the weekly reading load in this course will be 175 pages.


Participation: 30 % of the grade. In addition to doing the readings,
you are expected to share your questions and ideas in the seminar.
Each unexcused absence will result in a loss of 5 points (out of a
possible 30) on the participation grade.

Film and book reviews: 30% of the grade. Over the course of the
semester, you will be required to write a number of book and film
reviews. Each should be approximately 500 words in length. Each
review should 1) give a very brief summary of the main question and
argument addressed in the book; 2) describe the evidence offered; 3)
assess the quality of the argument in terms of inherent logic,
interpretation of evidence, alternative evidence, and overall
plausibility. The reviews will be graded based on 1) accurate
understanding of the book/film; 2) critical assessment; and 3)

Research paper: 40 % of the grade. You will write an original
research paper on a topic of your choice and approved by the
instructor. The paper should be approximately 5000 words in length
and address an important question arising from the readings with the
use of a case study.