Each year’s syllabus is unique, as the course’s community shapes its interests and inquiries. However, the first four weeks of the course, led by the instructor, guide an interrogation of activist praxes, social change, and education. Below you can find a detailed description of these weeks, as well as links to download the complete course syllabus by year.
Theorizing the “Present”
What defines the present historical moment?
What intellectual and methodological tools do we need to understand the present?
How do the ways we understand time (the past, present, and future) and relations (spatial, economic, political) inform our analysis of the present and how we understand future possibilities?
What are the implications of these questions for our ability to identify forms of resistance, disruptions, and alternatives to our present conditions?
John Clarke. 2010. "Of crises and conjunctures: The problem of the present." Journal of Communication Inquiry 34, no. 4: 337-354.
Angela Davis. 2015. “Closures and Continuities.” in Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement. Haymarket Books.
Greg Jobin-Leeds and AgitArte. 2016. “Grounded in Community: The Fight for the Soul of Public Education” in When We Fight, We Win! Twenty-First Century Social Movements That Are Transforming Our World. The New Press.
Robin D.G. Kelley. 2016. “Trump Says Go Back, We Say Fight Back” in Boston Review forum, “After Trump.” https://bostonreview.net/forum/after-trump/robin-d-g-kelley-trump-says-go-back-we-say-fight-back (see more responses by following the link)
Rasheedah Phillips. 2016. “Future” in Fritsch, Kelly, Clare O'Connor, and A. K. Thompson (eds). Keywords for Radicals: The Contested Vocabulary of Late-Capitalist Struggle. AK Press.
Reclaiming Our Future: The Black Radical Tradition in Our Times. Conference held at Temple University, January 7-10, 2016. Watch “War, Peace and Global Justice” session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvTCt_3i67k&feature=youtu.be
Activism and Theories of Political Action
What is activism?
How else can we theorize political action (for example, organizing, direct action, participatory democracy) and what possibilities do these approaches open up or close?
What are the connections and tensions among these approaches to political action?
What are the affordances and limits of theorizing political action in these ways at this particular time and in response to specific social problems?
Do these ways of theorizing political action presume particular kinds of subjects or political projects? If so, how?
Carol Mueller. 2004. “Ella Baker and the Origins of ‘Participatory Democracy’” in Jacqueline Bobo et al. (eds), The Black Studies Reader, pp. 79-90.
Susan Stall and Randy Stoecker. 1998. “Community Organizing or Organizing Community? Gender and the Crafts of Empowerment.” Gender &Society. 12(6): 729-756.
Astra Taylor. 2016. “Against Activism” The Baffler: http://thebaffler.com/salvos/against-activism
“The Protest Issue” Sunday Review of The New York Times (Oct. 21, 2017): Read “How Protest Works” by Kenneth Andrews and “Black Lives Matter is Democracy in Action” by Barbara Ransby https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/21/opinion/sunday/black-lives-matter-leadership.html
Struggles to Transform the School
What have been some of the dominant ways of theorizing The School?
How do these theories of schooling relate to configurations of power and the relationships between schools, individual actors, collectivities, the state, and society?
What have been some of the struggles to transform or provide alternatives to The School as we know it? What were their challenges and limitations? What can we learn from these examples?
What could/should The School look like given the needs of our societies and world?
Fania Davis. 2014. “Discipline with Dignity: Oakland Classrooms Try Healing Instead of Punishment.” http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/education-uprising/where-dignity-is-part-of-the-school-day
Emily Deruy. 2016. “How Black Lives Matter Activists Plan to Fix Schools” The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/08/the-ambitious-education-plan-of-the-black-lives-matter-movement/494711/ To be read with excerpts from “A Vision For Black Lives,” The Movement For Black Lives’ policy platform related to education: https://policy.m4bl.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Community-Control-of-Schools-Policy-Brief.pdf
Henry Giroux. 2001. “Reproduction, Resistance & Accommodation in the Schooling Process” in Theory and Resistance in Education: Toward a Pedagogy for the Opposition. Bergin & Garvey Press.
Matthew Countryman. 2005. Up South. “Community Control of the Schools.”
“The Problem We All Live With” Two-part series of This American Life podcast focusing on segregation in U.S. schools. Part One (7.31.2015): http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/562/the-problem-we-all-live-with; Part Two (8.7.2015): http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/563/the-problem-we-all-live-with-part-two
This week’s class was designed in conjunction with Black Lives Matter at School Week (Feb 5-10). Learn more here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/14p3UL4O5cAsIFSeZbff1-XjKfM16pkZWHYiASTuxiMI/edit
Power and Social Transformation
What is power?
How can we understand the role of “power” in processes, practices, and possibilities of social transformation?
How is power built among those who are understood as “powerless”?
How can power be exercised against “powerful” institutions and actors in the interest of radical social change?
What are the roles of individuals, collectivities, institutions, and movements in these processes?
Christian Scholl. 2016. “Prefiguration” in Fritsch, Kelly, Clare O'Connor, and A. K. Thompson (eds). Keywords for Radicals: The Contested Vocabulary of Late-Capitalist Struggle. AK Press.
“Power & Prefiguration,” two-part special issue of Berkeley Journal of Sociology (Vols. 58-59). http://berkeleyjournal.org/category/forum/power-prefiguration/ Selections: “End of the Leaderless Revolution” (Cihan Tuğal); “Bringing the Organization Back In: Social Media and Social Movements (Jen Schradie); “Prefiguration or Actualization? Radical Democracy and Counter-Institution in the Occupy Movement (Daniel Murray); “How to Change the World: Institutions and Movements Both Matter (Gabriel Hetland)
Frances Fox Piven. 2008. “Can Power from Below Change the World?” American Sociological Review. 73: 1-14.
Film: Agents of Change (1h6min). Available to stream on Franklin:
Supplemental Overview of Theories of Power
Complete Syllabi by Year
Below you can download the syllabi for each year, complete with readings. Further, syllabi may be annotated with the way the course changed over the semester. The current year’s syllabus only consists of the course description, format, and chosen readings for weeks 1-4.