Social Movements and Culture, 1960s to the Present: Theory and Praxis

In this course we will explore the relationships between cultural forms (music, film, poetry, graphic arts, etc.), and movements for social change in the US and Canada from the 1960s to the present. We will match up movements and cultural forms in order to compare both movement types, and various forms and uses of cultural texts in movements, asking what each particular form does best in promoting social change.
The course will include a series of documentary films depicting major social movements. And each course session will match up an art form, a movement, films and various social movement strategies, tactics, and theories.


1. PARTICIPATION: [15%] Participation will be judged by quality more than quantity, based on attendance and regular contributions to discussions. For every class session, come prepared to talk about how you would use a tactic, princple or theory from Beautiful Trouble to better understand and learn from the movement in question.

2. FACILITATION: [25%] Each student will help facilitate discussion of course readings/viewings. Paired student facilitators will have full responsibility for the guiding discussion for the first half of the class period, providing discussion questions (in advance via email to the prof and fellow students) and leading discussion for the first half of the class. After the break, we will all have collective responsibility for the second half of the discussion. Facilitators will also be responsible for updating the online resource guide for their particular chapter/topic. This will include checking for deadlinks and replacing them, and adding at least 10 (5 each) new annotated items to the site. To avoid duplication, co-facilitators will need to divide up this responsibility.

3. CULTURAL ACTION PLAN: [20%] This assignment entails developing a cultural action plan for futhering some aspects of a contempoary social movement organization’s agenda. An action plan is a series of events and/or art pieces that embodies and furthers the ideas, values and strategies of the movemet. Each student will either work with a social movement group (on or off campus) that they are already a member of, or focus on a group they have an interest in by do not belong to.

4. SEMINAR PAPER/PROJECT: [40%] A research essay (approx. 15-20pp) on any topic related to US or comparative social movement cultures in the 20th/21st centuries. Additional options instead of a research paper include various cultural interventions: fiction, fictive or documentary films, songs, dances, murals, etc. that embody ideas from the course about how to effectively use cultural forms in movement contexts.


Boyd, Andrew and David Mitchell, eds. Beautiful Trouble
Reed, T.V. The Art of Protest

The website The Art of Protest is geared to the text for the course, and will be a major resource.
A second site
Cultural Politics: Social Movements includes additional materials and topics beyond the limited scope of the course.


Given the emphasis on films, either or both of the following texts may prove useful for better understanding the ethics, politics, and technical dimensions of social movement documentaries.

Nichols, Bill. Introduction to Documentary Film
Aufderheide, Patricia. Documentary Film: A Short Introduction


WEEK 1, Jan 8: Introduction to Movement Cultures and to Each Other

WEEK 2, Jan 15: Civil Rights Movements, and Music
AP ch 1
BT 32-36; 88-90; 148-50
Films: "Freedom On My Mind" and "Freedom Riders"

WEEK 3, Jan 22: Black Power, and Radical Drama
AP ch 2
BT 40-43; 62-63; 66-67
Films: "All Power to the People!" and “Huey Newton"

WEEK 4, Jan 29: Latino/a Movements, Immigrant/Labor Rights, and Murals
AP ch 4
BT 284-86; 312-16; 338-41
US Films: "Chicano" (watch at least 2 episodes of this four part series)

Canadian films, by Min Sook Lee: "El Contrato" plus "Teo in Toronto"

Miurals: Great Wall of LA

WEEK 5, Feb 5: Women’s Movements, and Poetics of Liberation
AP ch 3
BT 282-85
Films: "Audre Lorde: A Litany for Survival" and "Makers: The Women Who Make America"
and "Finding Dawn:Missing and Murdered Native Women"

WEEK 6, Feb 12: American Indian Movement, Idle No More, and Film
AP 5

  • Idle No More Movement web site
  • Radio: Our Native Land: AIM Shakes Up Canada (radio show)

  • "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse"
  • “Idle No More”
  • "Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance"
  • WEEK 7, Feb 15-21: READING WEEK

    WEEK 8, Feb 26: Theorizing Movements
    AP ch 10
    BT 208-274
    Sandoval, Methodology of the Oppressed Pay special attention to ch 2.

    WEEK 9, Mar 5: LGBTQ Rights Movements, ACT UP and the Graphic Arts
    AP ch 7
    BT 100-02; 104-05; 244-46
    Webisite: ACT UP NYC Fine site that includes links to historical documents and images of many of the key graphics created by the group.
    Films: "Before Stonewall" and “How to Survive a Plague” and "United in Anger"
    Available on Netflix and iTunes, among other places.

    WEEK 10, Mar 12: Environmental Justice and the Knowledge Arts
    AP ch 8
    BT 376-79
    Film/Game: "Fury at the Sound" and “Fort McMoney” (a documentary video game) and
    "The PowerShift Climate Justice Movement in Canada"

    WEEK 11, Mar 19: Students Movements, Then and Now
    AP ch 6
    BT 24-25; 120-21
    Article: Solty, "Canada’s 'Maple Spring': From the Quebec Student Strike to the Movement Against Neoliberalism."
    Website: Montreal Student Protest TImeline

  • "Berkeley in the 60s"
  • "Insurgence" (not readily available)
  • Montreal Student Protests, 2012 (select several from a variety of YouTube videos)
  • WEEK 12, Mar 26: Global Justice & Occupy Movements
    AP ch 9
    BT 78-81; 278-81; 286-88; 350-53; 380-83

  • “This is What Democracy Looks Like”
  • “99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film”
  • "Fault Lines"
  • "Occupy Wall Street Doc"
  • "Rise Like Lions"
  • Ten Films that contextualize Occupy Wall Street
  • "Tweeting Occupy Wall Street"
  • The Mapped Growth of Protests Worldwide, 1979 to 2013
  • WEEK 13, Apr 2 & Finals WEEK: Student presentations