Why do groups of people who have been quiescent for decades, all of a sudden take to the streets to oppose their regimes, often risking their lives to do so? Why do regimes that had survived wars and remained stable, suddenly collapse under popular pressure? Why do some movements last and succeed in their goals, while other fizzle and fail? In this seminar we will provide answers to these questions, by analyzing the causes and changing meanings of revolutions, social movements, contentious politics, and activism.
We will start by looking at how the French Revolution in the 18th century defined the meaning of revolution in the modern world and how it was transformed by the revolutionary events in 1968 and then 1989. We will then continue with alternative trajectories and neglected histories such as the Haitian Revolution and contentious politics in 18th century China, as well as more contemporary revolutions in post-Soviet states and the Middle East. Given that today we are living in another age of world-wide political activism, ultimately the goal of this course is to develop informed theoretical analyses of the meanings and practices of revolutions and social movements both in the past and in our own times.
Satisfies the Justice, Equality, and Community requirement.
Permission of the instructor required.