UMass Amherst Resistance Studies Courses

Mural in Baltimore, Maryland  Photo Credit: The Real News NetworkAs part of its academic component, every fall the Resistance Studies Initiative will offer undergraduate and graduate courses.

Until at least 2021 similar courses will be offered on both the graduate and undergraduate levels. They will include “Postcolonial and Indigenous Resistance,” “Constructive Resistance: Alternatives to Domination,” and others covering various aspects of resistance in relation to military occupation, capitalism, campaign strategies and impacts, repression and counter-repression, research methodology, gender and patriarchy, race and ethnicity, queer politics and norms, and more.

The courses for Fall 2018 are:


Course title: Land struggles: Local communities’ nonviolent resistance and construction of alternatives in the Americas

STPEC 492H, Focus Seminar II scheduled on Wednesdays from 4:00-6:30pm.
Instructors: Joanne Sheehan (activist, educator) and Professor Stellan Vinthagen (Sociology, Resistance Studies Initiative)

Course description

This course focuses on how ordinary people struggle for land and housing in the US and Latin America. It brings up the contexts, values, strategies, tactics and mobilization of movements like the Community Land Trusts (CLT) in the US, the landless workers movement in Brazil (MST), and the Indigenous peoples of Chiapas (Zapatistas). This course brings together two teachers that combine their academic and activist backgrounds in a collaboration, making sure the course has both a clear activist perspective and an academic basis. The course gives a necessary political-economic background to land issues and injustices, but focuses on how poor and marginalized communities go to direct action: try to create autonomy, self-governance and build their own constructive programs and resist injustices. Key themes are community based struggles and the combination of resisting injustice with building new societies and alternatives. Seminars will involve students through discussions, which follow up on background lectures, guest visits from researchers and activists, films, literature readings, student projects, etc. Assignments consist mainly of a book review, oral presentations, and a course paper analyzing a chosen case of relevance. Extra credits are offered for excursions to relevant projects in New England. The overall aim with this course is strategy and social change development: to critically assess popular land struggles, and what challenges and possibilities movement activists face when they try to combine resistance with the building of new societies. View syllabus


Course title: Civil Resistance and the Everyday

Sociology and Psychology 791R-01 scheduled on Mondays 6:00PM - 8:30 PM
Instructor: Professor Stellan Vinthagen (Sociology, Resistance Studies Initiative)

Course description
This course focus on what has sometimes been called ‘everyday forms of resistance’, ‘quite encroachments’ or political ‘lifestyles’ and ‘subcultures’. It applies sociological perspectives on the ‘resistance’ that is played out in the ‘everyday life’ of ‘ordinary’ people: a resistance that might be widespread and diffused, individual or small scale, implicitly political, disguised or even hidden. It brings to light how the ‘private’ or ‘personal’ can be political, and explores the creativity of ‘cultural resistance’. A special attention is turned towards the ‘intersectionality’ of both domination and resistance in the everyday life, and therefore the problematics of how resistance does not only liberate, but also recreate domination. The course consists of some introductory lectures, and mainly student led literature seminars and course paper discussions. Examination is done through active participation, presentations, a book review and a course paper in which students chose a topic of interest relevant to the course. View syllabus

Examples of past courses:

Civil Resistance and Social Change (SOCIOL 492P; PSYCH 492P)

Focusing on so-called “nonviolent direct action,” “people power,” “unarmed insurrection,” or “the color revolution,” this course will apply sociological perspectives to the causes, effects, and dynamics of resistance in political and non-institutional mobilizations. Among the topics: how organized, strategic, and mass-mobilized popular resistance sometimes brings about change, only to spawn its own forms of domination. View syllabus

Postcolonial and Indigenous Resistance (SOCIOL 792R; PSYCH 792R)

This course focuses on postcolonial and indigenous thinking and resistance practices, both in its historical and contemporary forms, in the US and beyond. The postcolonial situation frames all of us, but more so those that challenge existing colonial attitudes, institutions and practices. We work with reflective text seminars. The main course assignment is to write a publishable article about one chosen relevant theme.  View syllabus