Political Science | Social Movements and Health Activism
Y490 | 16116 | 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?

We will explore social movements through the lens of health activism,
with particular focus on women’s health movements, which are often,
though not always, directed toward reproductive health. Case studies
include abortion activism, breast cancer activism, AIDS activism, the
women’s self-help movement in health, the movement against gender
violence, protest against female genital mutilation, and activism
concerning environmental health. Readings will be interdisciplinary,
drawing on political science, gender studies, sociology, history, and
anthropology. We will investigate how health policy and service
delivery become politicized and how communities in need have gone
about obtaining health services. We will similarly look at how health
professionals and scientists become activists and how activists in
turn challenge access to authoritative knowledge. Our case studies
will come from around the globe, including both advanced capitalist
economies and less developed countries. A background in feminist
theory is helpful, but not required.
Course requirements:
Students will be responsible for reading 80-100 pages of challenging
social science research per week; completing frequent writing
assignments that build toward a course paper; attending regularly;
participating actively in class; keeping up with current news on our
topic; and producing a research paper of roughly 5000 words.