Seminar | Every generation has its struggle: From youth organizing to social movements in contemporary South Africa

Monday, March 9, 2020 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
102 Furcolo Hall | UMass Amherst

The literature on contemporary youth organizing has documented psychological benefits associated with participation and some evidence of local political impact. But how do local organizing campaigns transform into regional or national movements? This is a practical question facing organizers and one that calls for attention from researchers.

In this presentation Ben Kirshner (University of Colorado Boulder) will draw on research about education organizing in South Africa to analyze collective action frames that enabled youth to assert legitimacy and construct shared aims across locales. Findings focus on how youth constructed historical continuity frames that lent them legitimacy as upholders of the South African freedom struggle and flexible problem frames that linked young people's local struggles, such as inadequate sanitation or broken windows at their schools, to a national policy agenda. In this presentation Dr. Kirsnher will discuss connections to other youth movements and implications for the interdisciplinary youth organizing field.

This event is supported by the ISSR Scholars Program, promoting successful research and grants development for social science faculty across UMass Amherst. Dr. Kirshner visits UMass to collaborate with ISSR Scholar Kysa Nygreen. His public talk is co-sponsored with the College of Education's Department of Teacher Education & Curriculum Studies.


Ben Kirshner is a Professor in the School of Education at CU-Boulder and serves as Faculty Director for CU Engage: Community-Based Learning and Research. His commitment to educational equity and the design of learning environments dates to early experiences working with young people at a community center in San Francisco's Mission District, and advanced studies at Stanford's Graduate School of Education. Through his work with CU Engage he seeks to develop and sustain university-community partnerships that leverage the resources of the university to address persistent public challenges. His research examines youth organizing, participatory action research, and new forms of digital media as contexts for learning, development, and social change. He recently published Youth Activism in an Era of Education Inequality (2015, NYU Press). His new project, in collaboration with colleagues at UC Denver and funded by the Spencer Foundation, involves the study of young people's policy arguments in public settings.