FWIS 180: Being the Change: Writing for Activism, Advocacy, and Social Justice


“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”

Mahatma Gandhi

According to many tellings of US history, this country was founded on protest. However, despite the nearly constant presence of social movements in the United States since its founding, we often learn about this past as a series of isolated incidents, rather than a history of interrelated, simultaneous, and often mutually exclusive social movements, each with its own history, goals, and strategies. Despite these differences, there are certain attributes that tie most activist and social justice movements together; among the most important is strategic communication.

In this course, we’ll take a historical and anthropological dive into a variety of social movements from across time and from around the world. We’ll take seriously the role of media, technology, and infrastructure in the development of diverse strategies, as well as the importance of both individual and group identity formation. We’ll analyze advantages, risks, and affordances that vary along lines of race, gender, sexuality, ability, and class.  Along the way, we’ll think critically about the communicational tactics of each one, analyzing what worked, what didn’t, and why. Using this knowledge, students will choose an issue important to them, develop a communicational strategy for addressing this issue and—if they desire—put it out into the real world!

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