Fall 2017 - SA 321 J100

Social Movements (S) (4)

Class Number: 6936

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 5 – Dec 4, 2017: Tue, 5:30–9:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Ataman Avdan
    Office Hours: Tuesdays, 16:00-17:00 or by appointment
  • Prerequisites:

    SA 101 or 150 or 201W.



A study of the sources, development and effects of social movements in transitional and modernized societies. Specific types of movements will be analysed.


Do you complain about the things you dislike, especially about several aspects of political, social, economic systems? Many do. However, these powerful systems are resistant to change and mere complaining would not have an impact on them. Occasionally, people band together and challenge these systems: They form protest organizations and demand change; they make their voices heard through strikes, marches, demonstrations, sit-ins, and many other creative ways. Social movements have played a major role in individual countries and globally, helping to bring about the end of slavery, voting rights for women, the 8-hour work day, minimum wage, same-sex marriage, among many other social changes that we now take for granted. However, many people know little about social movements and see activists as marginal, if not crazy, “trouble makers” who just waste people’s time.

This course explores the history and theory of contemporary social movements. The study of social movements helps to illuminate many larger social issues such as the nature of power and inequality in society; how social change happens; the role of ideas and values, how public opinion shapes and is shaped by the media; as well as the power dynamics among people diverse in race, class, gender, and other identities. In short, the more we understand social movements the further we comprehend the human condition and human diversity. We will start with a theoretical discussion on social movements, focusing on at the strengths and weaknesses of several approaches/perspectives including mass society theory, new social movement theory, political opportunity theory, relative deprivation theory, resource mobilization theory, and framing theory. In the second part, drawing from history, sociology, and politics, and through the lenses of power, resistance, and identity, we will examine a range of historical and contemporary social movements. These include the civil rights movement, labour movements, feminist movements, gay and lesbian liberation and LGBTQ movements, Occupy Wall Street, Indigenous movements, environmentalism of the poor, the transnational anti-globalization movement, the Gezi Resistance, the Zapatista Rebellion, and Black Lives Matter.


At the end of this course, you will be able to 1) define what a social movement is; 2) explain when and why social movements occur, who joins movements, what movements do and how they do it, how they are organized, what strategies they use, what impacts they have on individuals and on society, and why they decline; and 3) understand how social movements relate to social change.


  • Participation 10%
  • Group presentation 15%
  • Exam 1 (October 17, in-class) 30%
  • Exam 2 (November 28, in-class) 30%
  • Short paper (1000-1250 words) 15%


Where a final exam is scheduled and you do not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, you will be assigned an N grade. Unless otherwise specified on the course outline, all other graded assignments in this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned.

Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy:
The Department of Sociology and Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T 20.01) and academic dishonesty and misconduct procedures (S10.01‐ S10.04). Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style. It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student.html.



Required readings available through Canvas, the SFU Library, or online.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html