City Lit Blog

Social movements in the modern world

Story added 3rd Oct 2017

 

On Saturday 14 October, City Lit will host Politics day: the rise of social movements, exploring the forces behind the extraordinary development of social movements in recent years, from the Arab Spring and its aftermath to emergent women's movements across the globe. Ahead of this special, one-off study day, City Lit's Coordinator for History and Politics, Dale Mineshima-Lowe, examines what it meant by the term "social movement" and assesses the challenges and opportunities available to movements today.

 

For most people, the term ‘social movements’ tends to bring to mind the gathering of people for specific issues or perspectives, usually outside of formal government structures. In everyday media, these include the anti-capitalist, anti-globalist, women’s groups, and those supporting LGBT rights. Many social movements are seen as transnational – transcending national borders to promote issues and advocate for changes.

However, these are merely the more recognisable social movements across the Western world, and such definitions neglect the existence of much smaller and more domestic-based social movements like those focused on workers’ rights in a number of Latin American and African states. While some such groups have gained support abroad from other similar movements, the majority have very a specific set of issues that are niche to their domestic – social and economic – situations.

For those interested in social movements, the changes witnessed over the past two decades in particular have been transformative. Firstly, people in established and developing democracies who want voice for themselves are being pushed by the current socio-economic context to seek alternatives to current government institutions. It would be fair to say that social movements are seeking to challenge and change an emergent status quo that seems to marginalise or impact particular sectors of populations in a detrimental way. The people participating in social movements do not feel that their issues are addressed by current institutions and patterns of governing in a manner that is constructive and likely to result in real change.

The other aspect that has transformed social movements over the past two decades has been the growth of social media and technology. These have invaluable for bringing attention to small movements and for organising participants in a way that exceeds all methods previously available. 

Going forward, the real challenge for social movements and governments alike is how to integrate the issues and perspectives of groups, while preventing social movements from undermining governments and holding future ones ‘hostage’ to demands for change. The balance is a difficult one. In many instances, social movements have recognised the value of becoming influential within current government structures and institutions. At the same time, many have been wary of becoming ‘integrated’ and subsumed into mainstream politics and political parties. The cynic would assume that integration automatically means a ‘watering-down’ or compromise on the very issue they have been advocating to change. But the optimist would argue that compromise is inevitable and the integration would allow for a ‘mainstreaming’ of the issue to gain a larger voice to effect change.  

It remains to be seen how social movements will navigate these difficulties in the future, and how their practices and the possibilities open to them will be further shaped by new technical developments. It does seem certain, however, that people across the world will continue to feel the need organise independently in order to put pressure on existing institutions and press for change that can’t be achieved within the ordinary operations of government. 

Politics day: the rise of social movements

Explore the forces behind the extraordinary rise of social movements in recent years, from the Arab Spring and its aftermath to emergent women's movements across the globe. Our special, one-off study day will feature an array of City Lit tutors and special guests from leading institutions. 

Date: Saturday 14 October

Time: 11:00-17:00

Location: City Lit, Keeley Street (find us)

More information and booking.

Politics Day - full programme of events and speakers

Politics Day: ‘The rise of people movements’ 

Saturday, 14 October 2017

11:00 – 17:00

 

Schedule for the day

10.30 – 11.00 – Registration/sign-in for students

11.00 – 11.15 – Opening and Welcome (housekeeping, etc.)

 

11.15 – 12.15 – Speaker 1: Christina Julios

12.15-12.30 – coffee break

12.30 – 13.30 – Speaker 2: James Chiriyankandath

 

13.30 – 14.30 – Lunch Break 

 

14.30 – 15.30 – Speaker 3:  Zulfia Chynar-Satimbai

15.30 – 15.45 – coffee break

15.45 – 16.45 – Speaker 4: Mark McQuinn

16.45 – 17.00 – Closing of day

 

Speakers for the day: 

Dr Christina Julios, Honorary Research Fellow, Department of Geography, Birkbeck, University of London; and City Lit Sociology Tutor. 

Christina has been recently recognised with a certificate at the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation’s (IKWRO)True Honour Awards 2017 for her research and educational work on ‘honour’-based violence.

Christina will be speaking on: contemporary social movements focused on 'honour'-based violence including forced marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). She will explore initiatives by Diasporas in Western countries as well communities in developing nations. 

 

Dr James Chiriyankandath, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, and History/Politics tutor at City Lit.

Prior to his current post, James served as Research Director in the Department of Law, Governance and International Relations at London Metropolitan University. He edits the journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics  and has researched, taught and published on the politics of the Middle East, South Asia and international relations for three decades.  

James will be speaking on: the Arab Spring and its aftermath – exploring the people movements that started from the Arab Spring and the impact these have had in the North African and Middle East regions.

 

Ms Zulfia Chynar-Satimbai, works with Amnesty International where she is currently responsible for supporting activist movement in countries in former Soviet space with no Amnesty’s presence. She joined Amnesty International headquarters in 2004 and having previously worked on supporting national civil society movements in Kyrgyzstan, following completion of a BA in Business Administration at the American University-Central Asia, and MPhil in Development Studies in the University of Cambridge.  

Zulfia will be speaking on: her experience of working with activist groups in Central Asia - as a student activist, then aid/development agency employee then as member of an international human rights movement; exploring the multiple narratives about social movements and journeys of minority narratives towards change.  

 

Dr Mark McQuinn, Convenor of the Aid and Development course on the MSc Development Studies course, Development Studies Department at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, and a Politics tutor at City Lit.

His current research interests are on the influence of trade unions on labour practices in Sierra Leone and Tanzania, and on issues affecting informal sector workers in Ghana. Mark has researched and published also on trade unions, NGOs, civil society in Tanzania.

Mark will be speaking on: civil society, informal associations and social movements related to trade unions and labour across the African continent, with particular emphasis on his research in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Tanzania. 

About the author

Dale Mineshima-Lowe is Coordinator of History and Politics at City Lit, Managing Editor for the Center of International Relations, and an Associate Lecturer and Researcher in the Politics Department at Birkbeck, University of London. With a background in political science, law and psychology, her main research interests are on the relationship between the Rule of Law, democracy building & consolidation, and corruption in transitional states and “young” democracies, with a particular focus on the EU, Central and Eastern Europe, and more recently on Macedonia and other parts of the Balkans.

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