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Week 1 - People power and the state: making sense of movements and governance

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Week 1 - People power and the state: making sense of movements and governance

Staged Research Essay
Part one:  proposal/abstract and bibliography (for the major essay)

Due Date -upload to turnitin by 11.59pm Sunday 27 September
Approx 400 words (your bibliography will not be included in word count)

Submit an abstract/proposal. This will include identifying the main issue, the case studies covered, and outlining how you plan to answer the question. The  bibliography (not included in word count) will list around 6-10 references (you can go over this number, but cannot go under unless you have consulted with tutor and got permission to do so)

For your major essay, you will choose to answer ONE question from the 27 listed below:


Week 1 – People power and the state: making sense of movements and governance

  1. Outline Walter Mignolo’s concept of ‘epistemic disobedience’ and analyse how it can inform decolonial projects. 
  2. Examine similarities and differences between Black Lives Matter movements in Australia, the USA and other transnational instances of this social movement; assess how strategies for change are prioritised. 
  3. Discuss how a person’s positionality affects how they may participate in at least one social movement. What strategies best deal with inequality between actors within the same social movement? 

Week 2 – Reckoning with Settler Colonialism: sovereignty, the state and the subject


  1. Assess the extent to which Aboriginal Sovereignty is stifled or enabled, by what Moreton-Robinson calls the ‘normalising modes of rationality’ in a discipline of your choice. 
  2. Illustrate why the 1972 Aboriginal Tent Embassy is considered as ‘one of the most significant Indigenous political demonstrations of the twentieth century’.

Week 3 – Conflict, Crisis and Covid-19 in Latin America: navigating economies, institutions and people

  1. Social movements in Latin America are often described in terms of cyclical periods of flourishing and downturn. Use at least one case study to illustrate how this can be explained. What might be learned from these cycles in the quest for social transformation and justice?
  2. Many commentators argue that ‘recent civil unrest across Latin America is a result of institutional flaws, which have consistently plagued the region’. Using at least one case study, examine how social movements have attempted to take more control of institutional arrangements during times of crisis, and outline what measures have been most valuable for community well being.

Week 4 – Contaminated communication channels: media corporations, social media, dissent

  1. Explain the significance of alternative media for social movements by examining one case study or more (gay press during AIDS crisis, Koori mail and/ or IndigenousX for Aboriginal issues, zine making for feminist, queer and left wing social movements). As you do so, illustrate the role such media has played within the community concerned, and note any impact made in changing public perceptions of the social movement.
  2. Compare mainstream and alternative media accounts of a particular issue, campaign or policy connected to a social movement of your choice. What patterns emerge and what lessons can we learn about how to report or investigate such news stories?
  3. Mihlej argues that the media plays an instrumental role as a national memory keeper. With reference to one or more social movements illustrate how particular holidays, monuments, museums, or historical events have become a site for contesting national priorities and furthering their goals for liberation.

Week 5 – Regimes of governance and political parties

  1. Discuss various positions withinsocial movements regarding what kind of relationship (if any) they should foster with the state and political parties. What position/s do you find most convincing and why? 
  2. In the US, the Green New Deal has been described as ‘a trojan horse for socialism’ and ‘a twenty-first century take on the Communist Manifesto’. With reference to the Green New Deal in Australia, assess the applicability of such a claim here; discuss the extent to which you think both the Green new deal and the proposals outlined in the communist manifesto can advance social justice and environmental protection. What conundrums face such proposals?
  3. Discuss the extent to which you think the Green New Deal policies can further the aspirations of a social movement of your choice.  

Week 6 – Populism, affect and the making of inter/national outlaws

  1. Outline the features of what Stanley Cohen calls moral panics and use at least one case study to illustrate how they have been used to vilify a social movement. Assess the capacity social movements have shown in combatting such panics and articulate what strategies have shown themselves to be most useful when doing so. 
  2. Provide a working definition of populism and outline what counter-movements have emerged in response. 

Week 7 – Abolition democracy: confinement, incarceration, and profit driven governance

  1. Outline the principles of the abolitionist movement, and explain its relevance in Australia. 
  2. Explain why understanding the prison, border, and military industrial complexes are important to strategies for realising justice in one or more social movements. 
  3. Describe ways in which asylum seekers, prisoners, and those who have been confined through disability or mental health issues, have found intersections in their histories and solidarity in their struggles. What common strategies for social change can you articulate between them? 

Week 8 – International labour movements, trade unions and the challenge of ‘identity politics’ and eco-activism

  1. Outline debates where commentators situate class struggles and workers’ movements against identity politics, and assess whether you think these different movements are in opposition to one another. How might they find common ground?
  2. Evaluate the significance of solidarity as a principle for at least two social movements by illustrating how alliances have enabled different campaigns to further their liberatory goals.

Week 9 – Pedagogy, ‘gender ideology’ and queer threats to ‘traditional values’ 

  1. By using two different countries as case studies, discuss how the ‘Global right’ has campaigned against ‘gender ideology’ to repress the aims of social movements based on gender and sexuality. What kind of role have transnational networks played in countering these campaigns?

Week 10 – Authoritarianism and Civil Society in Putin’s Russia and beyond

  1. Using at least two case studies, outline the strategies and methods civil society activists have used to challenge authoritarianism in Putin’s Russia and beyond.

Week 11 – Counter hegemonic projects and radicalising participation

  1. Explain why self-determination is a privileged principle in social movements by illustrating with at least two case studies.  
  2. Hannah Arendt claimed that participatory democracy is often strongest at the level of councils. Do you agree? Give historical and present day examples to support your position.

Week 12 – Mass protest, big business and state response: cultivating self-governance and a future against the odds

  1. How valuable or dangerous is it for commentators to approach the study of social movements in terms of their success or failure, given many of these struggles have been taking place for centuries? What might be a better form of assessment when studying efficacy in social movements? Use case studies to support your answer.
  2. Assess how questions about narrative, strategies, tactics and demands in the open letter – published in Journal of Global Faultlines– addressed to Extinction Rebellion might make the movement more effective and just in their own actions.
  3. How do the conceptual lenses of coloniality on the one hand, and modernity on the other hand, equip social movements with differing knowledge for tackling climate change and opposition to big mining companies?


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