Political Science | Social Movements and Film
Y396 | 27359 | Sissenich
This course explores social movements of race and ethnicity, class,
and gender in the US and other countries. Through academic writings
and films, we will investigate 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?
Case studies will include organized racism, the US civil rights
movement, labor, the Chinese democracy movement, Islamic activism,
and anti-colonialism. The case material covers democratic and non-
democratic forms of government, as well as a range of conflict
dimensions such as race, class, and gender. Special attention will be
paid to social movement tactics, especially the decision to use
The course has four goals: 1) to familiarize students with theories
of political contention, both inside and outside of formal political
institutions; 2) to teach skills of film analysis and criticism; 3)
to integrate social science scholarship with visual genres; and 4) to
develop advanced writing and communication skills.
On average, the reading load for this course will be about 140 pages
per week. In addition, students will be required to view films at the
Main Library’s Kent Cooper Room. Because this is a writing-intensive
seminar, there will usually be a writing assignment for each week.
Participation: 30 % of the grade. This is not a lecture course. The
quality of this seminar depends strongly on participants’
contributions. In addition to doing the readings and viewing the
films, you are expected to share your questions and ideas in the
classroom. Your second and each additional unexcused absence will
result in a loss of 5 points (out of a possible 30) on the
Book and film reviews: 30% of the grade. Over the course of
the semester, you will be required to write two book reviews and one
film review. Each review should be approximately 500 words in length.
Term paper: 40 % of the grade: For the term paper, you will
be required to explore one theoretical question, formulated by the
instructor, through the lens of three films. You will choose these
three films from a list supplied by the instructor. The paper should
be approximately 5000 words in length and integrate social movement
theory and case material as presented in film. The tasks of the paper
will be split up over the course of the semester:
- One-page paper proposal (research question, working
hypothesis, films to be analyzed, key references), 5 points.
- Outline and annotated bibliography, 5 points.
- First draft, 5 points.
- Final draft, 25 points.