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/or 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.

What can a university course actually teach us about resistance?:  
Highlights from a Resistance Studies class at UMass in Waging Nonviolence
 

The courses for Fall 2019 are:

Undergraduate

Course title: Civil Resistance Against Foreign Occupation: Military occupation, contemporary colonization, and strategies of liberation

STPEC 492H-01, Focus Seminar II scheduled on Tuesdays from 4:00-6:30pm.
Instructor: Professor Stellan Vinthagen (Sociology, Resistance Studies Initiative)

Course description
This course is focused on understanding the resistance in dealing with foreign occupation.  In several places around the world people are living under military occupation from a foreign state, e.g. in Tibet, West Papua, Kashmir, Kurdistan, Palestine, and Western Sahara. Occupied people have tried to resist over decades, with armed rebellion as well as unarmed resistance mobilizations. Very little seems to work effectively, although it is clear that a combination of local mobilization and international involvement is necessary, like in East Timor and Kosovo. In several places we have seen an interesting shift from armed insurrections into unarmed ones. 
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Course title: Civil Resistance and Social Change 

(SOCIOL 492P-01; PSYCH 492P-01) scheduled on Mondays & Wednesdays from 4:00-5:15 pm.
Instructor: Professor Stellan Vinthagen (Sociology, Resistance Studies Initiative)

Course description
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. 
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Examples of past courses:

Course title: Civil Resistance and the Everyday (SOCIOL 791R-01; PSYCH 791R-01)
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.
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Course title: Postcolonial and Indigenous Resistance (SOCIOL 792R; PSYCH 792R)
Instructor: Professor Stellan Vinthagen (Sociology, Resistance Studies Initiative)

Course description
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.  
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Course title: Land struggles: Local communities’ nonviolent resistance and construction of alternatives in the Americas  (STPEC 492H)
Instructors: Joanne Sheehan (activist, educator, Resistance Fellow) 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.
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