Rage Against the Machine:  Protest, Activism, and Social Change

A First Year Seminar at Muhlenberg College

This is a seminar for students who are interested in participating in and thinking about protest
and activism. We will address theoretical questions such as: What exactly do we mean by
protest and activism? What are the motives, goals, and justification for protest and activism? To
what extent are various forms of activism or protest effective? Is the nature of activism different
in Democratic societies than in societies where power is more concentrated? There will also be
opportunities for you to develop your own skills as an activist by considering questions such as:
How can you be better informed and make more persuasive arguments for causes which you
support? Which approach and what kind of risks would you be willing to take to support your
cause? We will pursue these questions by studying specific cases of activism such as the
IMF/World Bank protest in Seattle, Muhlenberg student fasting to educate about hunger, and the
actions and intent of individuals and organizations such as the Unabomber, EarthFirst, and
ActUp. We will study various activist philosophies and approaches through extensive reading by
authors such as Martin Luther King Jr., Gloria Steinem, Henry David Thoreau, Edward Abbey,
Adrienne Rich, Saul Alinsky, Randy Shaw, and Paul Rogat Loeb. Through frequent writing assignments, we will learn to critique various forms of protest and how to make persuasive arguments for a specific
cause in which you strongly believe. Ultimately, we will focus on pragmatic ways to channel our
rage and/or passion for meaningful causes to effect change for a better world.
 


Syllabus

Activists and Organizations

Student Pages

Class Photos

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