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PLSC 410. Political Protests

Last Semester Taught: Fall 2023

The Guardian defined the 2010s as the “mass protest decade,” and 2019 capped this decade with an upsurge of protests worldwide. In 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the US witnessed the widest protests in its recent history in response to George Floyd's killing. Last year, civil unrest in Africa hit a 6-year high. This year, farmers in India and Europe have been demonstrating against dropping produce prices, rising fuel costs, and environmental reforms, and students at Columbia, Yale, and NYU settled encampments to protest Israel's bombardments of Gaza and demand the university divest of holdings in weapons manufacturing companies have been met with arrests. Protesting has been normalized as a form of political participation. 

Under what conditions does a protest start? Why do people decide to join a protest? Do protests succeed? Can repression kill protest movements?

Focusing on recent protest movements worldwide, this seminar will address these and other questions related to the study of political protest. We will start the course by analyzing the problem of collective action and how different theories have explained the emergence of protest movements and participation. From there, we will turn to movements around the world to understand the power of nonviolence, examine the outcomes of protests, the consequences of repression, how social media has changed protest participation, and what differences exist between conservative and progressive and between old and new social movements.

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