Rhetoric of Social Movements

R340 — Spring 2020

Freya Thimsen
Days and Times
9:30-10:45 MW
Course Description

Social movements conceptualize democracy differently depending on the tactics they favor. For instance, some movements assume democracy to be a representative system of government while others see it as a set of political values, cultural practices, or ethical habits. This course will compare the tactics of several movements to see how their approach to democracy influences their rhetoric. In the process, it will explore how different movements integrate with rhetorically significant concepts such as law, rights, the people, and revolution. For instance, strategically breaking the law, in the form of civil disobedience, is a long-standing tactic of social movements all over the world. Sometimes movements use concepts such as rights to argue that legal protections should be extended to new classes of persons. Other movements assume that liberal democratic representation is a tool of domination and they seek to create alternative organizational structures. These approaches to conceptualizing and enacting movement democracy will be compared with one another through several case studies, which may include black liberation politics, environmentalism, Latin American autonomous movements, and Occupy Wall Street.