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icono de curso

Globalization, Social Movements and Development


Credits: 4 ECTS

First semester

Pathway core courses




Social movements have long been at the forefront of transformative change. The civil rights struggles in the United States and indigenous mobilization in Bolivia challenged the established racial order and paved the way for the rise of an African American (Barack Obama) and an indigenous person (Evo Morales) to the highest political office in the two countries. Similarly, the undoing of the patriarchal family order and the dramatic transformation of gender relations over the last 50 years are almost impossible to imagine without feminism and LGBT movements. Similarly, the broad acceptance of sustainability as a cultural value and the “greening” of politics is closely entwined with the emergence of the environmental movement.

Yet, social movements are not a “magic bullet” for the advancement of human wellbeing and social justice. Ethnoracial inequalities remain deeply entrenched in the Americas, with disproportionate levels of poverty found among African Americans and indigenous peoples; women across the world continue to earn significantly less and face greater job insecurity than their male counterparts; and climate change and global warming continue to loom large. In fact, social movements have also been at the center of bringing about immense human suffering and decline in welfare, as examples ranging from the Ku Klux Klan to al-Queda powerfully illustrate.

This course explores the intersection between globalization, collective mobilization, and development. It does so by posing several core questions that will guide the readings and class discussions. When do social movements achieve what they want? What kinds of tactics are particularly “successful,” and what kinds of transformative change are movements particularly “good” at? And what about the unintended consequences of social movements? In pursuing these questions the course provides students with an introduction to the field of social movement studies, with a particular emphasis on recent attempts to theorize social movement outcomes. Yet, the course also departs from and moves beyond conventional courses on social movements. It does so in at least three major ways.

  • First, the course puts the spotlight on social movements in the Global South. This focus allows to critically interrogate the extent established social movement theory—which has primarily been developed against the backdrop of empirics from United States and Western Europe—needs to be reformulated in light of fresh evidence from the developing world.
  • Second, the course situates the study of social movements in the broader field of development studies. Institutionalism currently dominates mainstream thinking, and policy debates are primarily concerned with how to make institutions more accountable and inclusive. An analytical emphasis on the causes, processes, and consequences of collective mobilization in the Global South, by contrast, allows to inject politics, and with that, a focus on power relations, into the study of international development.
  • Third, the course draws on recent efforts to understand the connection between collective action and globalization. It explores how the communications revolution has implicated the opportunities, scales, and tactics of social movements. It also examines the interaction between collective mobilization, the transformation of growth models (e.g., the growing importance of finance and extractive industries), and the rise of new global norms and governance structures.


Class Attendance and Readings. The course puts a strong emphasis on active student participation. It will use about half of each week’s time for lectures to situate the weekly readings within the broader context of the course and clarify concepts and arguments. There will also be ample of time for classroom discussion and work in smaller groups (pending on enrollment size). The content of the lectures and the structure of the discussions presume that you have done the readings assigned for that week carefully. It is therefore essential that you come prepared to every class in order to make our conversations lively, provocative, interesting and fun. Class attendance is required and participation will count for 10% of your final grade. The instructor reserves the right to do short, unannounced pop quizzes on the weekly readings in case he feels that students are not doing the readings. Those quizzes may affect the participation grade.

In-Class Presentation (Group Work). To complement the instructor’s more general lectures parts of class will be dedicated to case studies that relate to and deepen each week’s theme. From Session 3 onwards teams of three to four students will therefore be in charge of preparing a sharp and concise 15 minute presentation that answers (one of) the research question(s) provided for that session (e.g., “Why is organized labor so weak in the United States” for the session on social movements and economic globalization). Teams are formed in Session 1 based on students’ thematic preferences. The instructor will provide two-three readings as “initial pointers” for each research question, but it is expected that group members conduct additional independent research on the topic. This assignment will count for 20% of your final grade.

Short Blog/Media Piece for Wider Audience (Individual Work). Each student selects one the course readings (either from the required readings, recommended readings, or “initial pointers,” but not one of the pointers she already presented on in class) and writes a 800 words (max.) piece for a blog or an online media of their choice, following the correspondent style. The piece has to present both the paper and its findings in a language that is understandable to a broader audience. If they choose so, students are also invited to use a non-text based communication strategy and to develop an oral piece that explains the article to a wider audience (e.g. a radio program or YouTube) video. This assignment counts towards 20% of the final grade and should be delivered to the course instructor by Session 10.

Final Paper (Individual Work). A research paper (double-spaced, 4000 words, excluding bibliography) that makes a succinct and well-researched argument about a topic related to globalization, social movements, and development. The final paper will count 40% of the final grade. It is due in January.

Build-up to Final Paper (Individual Work). In order to facilitate the writing of the final paper and allow the incorporation feedback along the way, students will submit a discussion of their topic/case (two paragraphs) and a brief bibliography of existing literature in Session 8. This assignment will count 10% of the final grade.

Evaluation (overview): 

  • Class participation 10%
  • In-class research project presentation 20%
  • Short blog/media piece 20%
  • Build-up to final paper 10%
  • Final paper 40%.