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CMST 4P03 Social Activism And The Media (C01)

Academic Year: Winter 2019

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Kamilla Petrick



Phone: 905-525-9140 x

Office Hours: Thursdays 11:30AM-1 PM, TSH 333

Course Objectives:

1. To build your knowledge of past and contemporary social movements

2. To build your understanding of media and movements as interacting systems

3. To understand the major theoretical traditions that inform the field of social movement studies

4. To improve your communication, collaborative, writing, strategizing and research skills.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Suzanne Staggenborg (2016). Social Movements. Third Edition (required). Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press Canada.

Plus required articles posted on A2L.

Method of Assessment:

Attendance + Participation - 20%

Since this is an upper year seminar course, a lot of emphasis is placed on your participation in class discussions. For this reason, it is very important that you attend lectures regularly and on time. Disruptive behaviour (e.g. talking/net-surfing/texting during class) will diminish your participation mark.

In-Class Quizzes - 20% (3 x approx. 7% each)

There will be four in-class, scheduled quizzes, designed to encourage you to keep up with the readings and to pay attention in lecture. Only the three best grades will be counted (so you can miss one without losing marks and without using MSAF).

Debates / Speeches – 10%

You will sign up to deliver a 3-minute debate speech or political speech on a social justice topic or movement of your choice. A more detailed assignment sheet will be provided.

Final Assignment – 25% (proposals worth 5% of final grade – for essays only -- due online March 3; final projects due April 7)

For the final assignment in this course, you have two options – see bottom of the syllabus.

Final Exam – 25% (in-class on March 28)

The final exam will be mixed-format, cumulative and cover the readings, class discussions, and screenings. First half of the exam will contain quiz-style question; the second half will contain short answer questions (a choice of 6 out of 8).

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Accomodations in case of missed quizzes (more than one allowable), lectures and presentations will require formal documentation.

Late penalty on written assignments is 2% per day up to 10 days maximum, including weekends.

Extensions can be granted if requested in advance. Last minute requests will not be considered.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


January 10: Introduction to the Course

January 17: Theory I - Social Movements and Collective Action


January 24:  Theory II -  Social Movements and the Media – Quiz 1

  • Staggenborg Chapter 3 -- only the section on the media (pg. 54-59)
  • Dieter Rucht (2004). “The Quadruple 'A': Media Strategies of Protest Movements since the 1960s” In Cyberprotest: New media, Citizens and Social Movements. W. Van de Donk et al (eds). New York: Routledge, p. 29-56


January 31: The Civil Rights Movement - SPEECHES #1


February 7: The Sixties – Quiz 2


February 14: The Women's Movement – DEBATE #1:  Do we need feminism?

  • Staggenborg Chapter 6
  • Suzannah Weiss (2016). “Is Mainstream Feminism Bad for Women’s Rights?” VICE Broadly.


February 21: No Class (Reading Week)


February 28: Indigenous Rights Movement – Quiz 3

  • Staggenborg Chapter 5
  • Robert Jago (2018). “The Warrior Society Rises: how a mercury spill in Canada inspired a movement.” The Guardian.
  • Pam Palmater (2017). “Canada 150 is a Celebration of Indigenous Genocide.” NOW Magazine.


March 7:  The Environmental Movement – SPEECHES #2


March 14: Queer Movement – Quiz 4


March 21: Global Justice Movement + Occupy – DEBATE #2: Is social media the most effective form of social movement communication today? + Course Review


March 28: In-class Final Exam


April 4: Final Exam review, SPEECHES #3, course wrap-up

Other Course Information:


OPTION 1: Research Paper

Research papers should apply the concepts and theories learned in class to analyze a specific social movement organization, protest event, or social movement, in any country in any historical period. You can also compare two organizations, events, or movements in a single country or in two countries. If your paper analyses one of the movements discussed in class, you are expected to go beyond course lectures and readings. However, you need not collect original data or do interviews with activists; you can rely only on secondary sources (i.e., articles and books available at the library) if you think that they provide enough information.

Research papers should be 12-15 pages (double-spaced) and address one or more of the following issues: What was the role of pre-existing ties and organizations in the emergence of the movement? How did social movement organizations recruit members and mobilize support? How did they frame their claims? How did the existing repertoire of collective action shape their actions? How were decisions made? How was the movement structured? What was the role of the political opportunity structure and/or the media in fostering or preventing mobilization? How did movement opponents and the state react to the growth of the movement? What explains the decline of the movement? What was the impact of the movement? What outcomes did it bring about?

You must submit a written paper proposal (2-3 pages) specifying the topic and presenting a few focused research questions as well as a preliminary annotated bibliography. The proposal is worth 5% of your final mark.


OPTION 2: Social Movement Participant Observation Exercise / Reflection Paper

Attend one protest event. I’ll inform you of upcoming events (in class and on the course Facebook page), but you can also find one that you are interested in, that works with your schedule.

Answer the following questions in your reflection paper (not necessarily in that order):

The first part of your paper should be descriptive (describe what happened); the second half should be analytical (using theories and concepts to analyze your experience in a critical way).

  • What is the claim being made?
  • Who or what is the target of those claims?
  • How is the claim framed (look for key soundbites, messages, slogans)?
  • Was this part of an ongoing campaign? Describe that campaign and the role this event played in it?
  • Who are the protesters? How many are there?
  • Who are the organizers? Describe them and their role.
  • What tactics did they use? Why did they choose those tactics?
  • How long did the event last?
  • Where was it located? Why was that location chosen?
  • What was the response by the targeted authorities? Media? Police? Why?

Answering the questions above in 6-8 page (double spaced) reflection paper that also discusses whether a resource mobilization perspective, a political opportunity perspective or a new social movement perspective is most useful in describing the participants, the event, and its impact. Include up to five relevant photos from the event (including selfies).