Course Summary

If oppression and injustice is everywhere, why aren’t people in constant revolt? Why do some protests win their demands while others don’t? How does the government respond to protest, or prevent them from occurring in the first place? We grapple with questions such as these by digging into histories of mobilizations that have transformed the political, social, economic, and cultural landscape of the places with which they have interacted. We’ll explore how protest is shaped by power, national belonging, information, violence, elections, economic conditions, international developments, and much more. As we do so, we’ll practice having compassionate dialogue with one another; thinking in evidence-informed ways; appreciating the nuance, complexity, and contradictions of our world; and connecting what we learn to our own lived experiences and that of our communities.

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Grading Scheme

Participation – 30%

Everything counts: groupwork, volunteering to read out loud, sharing your journaling and reading responses, rearranging the chairs in the room, etc.

Reading Annotations – 30%

Designed to assist you with reading comprehension, identifying and evaluating core arguments, critical thinking, and making connections that are meaningful to you. Post 2 annotations per reading. Graded as pass/fail.

In-Class Journaling – 10%

These are opportunities to (a) clock your emotional and intellectual reactions to the course material, (b) work out your ideas and positions on socially consequential questions, (c) privately express thoughts that you aren’t ready to share out loud, (d) prepare what thoughts thoughts you are ready to share with the whole class. Graded as pass/fail.

Research Paper & Presentation – 30%

This is a core requirement of all capstone classes. Its purpose is to train you to conduct research, analyze evidence, sculpt compelling arguments, and effectively express all of the above in writing and speech–skills that will become useful along many career paths. There will be writing workshops throughout the semester to support you in developing your ideas and writing the research paper. For full instructions and the rubric, navigate to the “Research Paper” tab. The required length is 2,000-2,5000 words (about 8-10 double-spaced pages). Quality over quantity!



This is just a list. For access to the readings, navigate to the “Readings & Annotations” tab.

1. Concepts & Theories of Mobilization

The Pelican Bay Hunger Strike: Resistance Within the Structural Constraints of a US Supermax Prison” (Reiter 2014)

2. Emotion & Cognition

“The Intimacy of Crowds” (Bond 2014)

“Opportunity, Honor, and Action in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943” (Einwohner 2003)

3. Identity & Ideology

“Free Spaces, Collective Identity, and the Persistence of White Power Activism” (Futrell & Simi 2004)

Ch1, “Algeria Unveiled,” in A Dying Colonialism (Fanon 1961)

4. Communicating the Movement: Media & Culture

Twitter and Tear Gas: How Social Media Changed Protest Forever” (Tufekci 2017)

Humour and Social Protest: An Introduction” (Hart 2007)

5. Organizations & Institutionalization

The Mass Protest Decade: Why Did the Street Movements of the 2010s Fail?” (Bevins 2023)

The Tyranny of Structurelessness” (Freeman 1970)

6. Everyday Resistance

Ch1, “Small Arms Fire in the Class War” in Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (Scott 1985)

7. Violence and Insurgency

“The Rehabilitation of Violence and the Violence of Rehabilitation: Fanon and Colonialism” (Kebede 2010)

8. Movement Repression

Footage from Hong Kong Reveals the Combustible, Contested Reality of Street Protest” (Aeon video)

“Beyond Tear Gas and Torched Dumpsters: Rethinking Violence at Occupy Oakland” (Brissette 2018)

This is a course site created during the Open Knowledge Fellowship, hosted by the Mina Rees Library of the CUNY Graduate Center. Funding for this program is provided by New York State in partnership with Office of Library Services, to support the use and implementation of Open Educational Resources (OER) across the University.