Political Science | Social Movements
Y353 | 13286 | Sissenich


The year 2011 has seen a surge of popular protests around the world,
from the Arab uprisings against autocrats to the occupation of the
Wisconsin state house in defense of collective bargaining rights for
public workers. In this seminar, we will explore why people take to
the streets, why social 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. Case
studies will come from around the world, including democratic and
nondemocratic settings. On average, the weekly reading load in this
course will be 100 pages. The main deliverable will be a 5000-word
research paper examining a social movement of the studentís choice,
written in multiple iterations with critical input from the instructor
and peers. Students will present their research to the class at the
end of the semester.