GAH 2359: Modern Social Movements

This course examines three twentieth century social movements and their leaders, activists who pursued political change, economic reform, and social justice through strategies opposed to the violent confrontation, revolution and civil war that marked much of the century. Readings from Thoreau and other nineteenth century philosophers and activists introduce key ideas of civil disobedience, non-violent confrontation, and moral and economic critiques of ‘modern’, industrial, and capitalist society. Documentaries, films, original movement texts, and readings from the works of Mahatma Gandhi, John Lewis, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela will place social movements in colonial India, apartheid South Africa, and 1950s-60s America in comparative perspective. Important will be a sense of both the successes achieved and the failures recorded as these movements and leaders struggled with familiar hierarchies of power to create change in differing political, social, and economic contexts.