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PLSC 410. Political Protests

Semester: Fall 2020

The Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protests, the October Rebellion in Chile, the Never Again movement, the #MeToo Movement, Black Lives Matter, the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt, the Indignados Movement in Spain and Occupy Wall Street are only a few examples of well-known political protests that occurred over the past decade. The Guardian defined the 2010s as the “decade of protest”, and 2019 capped this decade with an upsurge of protests all over the world. In 2020, amidst the Covid-19 crisis, the world is witnessing big protests: e.g. anti-lockdown protests, protests to condemn George Floyd killing, protests in Hong Kong…. 


What are the roots of these protests? Under what conditions does protest start? Why people decide to join a protest? Under what conditions do protests succeed? Can repression kill protest movements?


This seminar will address these, and other questions related to the study of political protest. We will start this course analyzing the problem of collective action, and how different theories have explained the emergence of protest movements and participation. From there, we will examine different protest movements around the world to understand the power of non-violence, the strength of repression, analyze how social media has changed protest participation, examine the differences between local and global protests, learn about inequalities in protest participation and its consequences for democracy, and institutionalization, mobilization, and success.


The seminar will be eclectic in the use of teaching materials and learning strategies. We will learn from political protests across the world, seminal and cutting-edge research on protest and social movements, journalistic pieces, documentaries, and from guest speakers. 

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