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Theme 5: Resistance – Reform, Rebellion, Revolution

This guide outlines resources for Theme Five of the Honors College Program Guide

By Prof. Rahul Kane

Honors Program Council, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society
Reverence to the past is important and so is the regard for the future. Resistance is an oppositional act. The practice of resistance is as inter-sectional as are the powers against which resistance is mounted. Both in the past and in the present, the dynamic nature of resistance comes from the actors, situations, and from the forms resistance takes.
Resistance can be social, political, or economic – and sometimes all three. It can be violent or non-violent. Non-violent protest by Mahatma Gandhi, for example, led to the freedom of India from the British. Resistance by Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama, led to desegregation, and resistance led by Nelson Mandela ended apartheid. Gandhi, Parks, and Mandela had examples of effective resistance from leaders who came before them. Thoreau’s philosophy influenced Gandhi, Harriet Tubman inspired Parks, and Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. motivated Mandela. Gandhi, Parks, and Mandela inspired activists who came after them. Wael Ghonim helped jump start the 2011 Egyptian revolution using social media platforms. Cardiothoracic surgeon turned satirical comedian, Dr. Bassem Youssef, used the power of social and traditional media to give international exposure to the same revolution. Sir Isaac Newton is quoted as saying that If he had seen further than other men, it was “by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Acts of resistance and courage by young people such as Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and Pakistani women’s rights in education activist and Nobel Laureate Malala Yusafzai stand on theshoulders of Ghonim and Youssef and others who came before them.
Non-violent direct action has played a major role in global resistance, and artists have been part of that tradition. From Bankim Chandra Chatterji’s “Vande Mataram” (1882) to Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” (1970), songs and poetry have historically supported and fueled revolution and, in turn, inspired future generations of artists. Banksy shredded his art as an act of rebellion against the concept of art as a commodity. Slogans such as #MeToo and “reclaiming my time” represent contemporary tools of resistance that can unite people who otherwise do not know one another or those who feel disconnected in the 21st-Century social media culture. Social media itself, when used as propaganda, can impact people connecting with one another in righteous protest, but it can also be used to convince people to follow ignoble instincts.
Revolutions have the potential to change the course of history. While they can be non-violent, revolutions have often stemmed from or engendered violence. In 1969, the spontaneous and violent demonstration of the Stonewall rebellion led to LGBTQ liberation and Pride celebrations of today. Twenty years after Stonewall, the “tank man” of Tiananmen square led to the June Fourth incident in which student protesters took to the streets of Beijing, and the government, in response, declared martial law.
Scientific revolutions can originate, too, with a single person or group of people whose findings are
groundbreaking. The move from Newtonian physics to quantum physics opened doors to research in energy, computing, and medicine. Revolutions can have unintended consequences, because, to paraphrase economists James D. Gwartney and Richard J. Stroup, all important decisions are made with insufficient information. The move from Newtonian physics to quantum physics, for instance, also led to the atomic bomb. The discovery of dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT), while hailed as a revolution in agricultural application and safety, turned out to be a disaster that has had a devastating environmental impact. Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring warned about the effects of DDT on the environment and helped set the stage for the 21st-Century environmental revolution. Farmers across the globe who are dealing with environmental changes can learn from the Third Agricultural Revolution and from Carson’s warnings to ensure future food security.

Reading Resources

Berberoglu, B. (Ed.). (2018).. London, England: Palgrave McMillan.
This handbook included global case studies to investigate varied social movements that have led to revolutions. Authors discussed the origins, existences, and challenges of revolutionary movements.
Carson, R., Darling, L., Darling, L. (2002). . Cambridge, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Originally a series of talks, Austin’s seminal work developed what is now known as speech act theory.
Ayunerak, P., Alstrom, D., Moses, C., James, Sr., C., & Rasmus, S. M. (2014). Yup’ik culture and context in southwest Alaska: Community member perspectives of tradition, social change, and prevention. American Journal of Community Psychology, 54(1-2), 91-99. Retrieved from
The authors presented an ethnographic account of Alaskan Yup’ik communities, illustrating how people in indigenous communities have reacted to the transformation of their language ecology in the tide of global language endangerment.
Baldwin, J. (Ed.). (2018). . Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Baldwin edited a series of essays by scholars whose work investigated how science, religion,
and political theory intersect and influence each other.
Brooks, D. (2015). New York, NY: Thorndike Press.
Brooks examined how people across the globe develop character beyond individual success.
Sheen, N., Smith, H., Kenworthy, E. W., & Butterfield, F. (2017). . New York, NY: Racehorse.
The Pentagon Papers, a report issued by David Ellsberg in 1971 on the role of the U.S. government in the Vietnam War, proved that the U.S. government lied to the public about the nature and scope of the Vietnam conflict. The authors placed the deception within the tradition of political environments. The Papers are now declassified and available to the public.

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