Public Philosophy Network

Encouraging and Supporting Publicly Engaged Philosophical Research and Practices

Call for papers for the 2012 UCLA IRLE Graduate Student Research Conference

From Port Huron to Occupy Wall Street: 50 Years of Student, Worker, and Social Justice StrugglesUCLA -  March 13, 2012

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has revitalized interest in the consequences of social inequality and the forms of protest. The Occupy movement is distinguishable from typical demonstrations by the particular form of insurgent practice – the physical occupation of ostensibly “public” spaces, often in defiance of the explicit policies and laws of the state. Yet the Occupy movement is but one in a long lineage of US social movements over the last half century utilizing insurgent, disruptive practices as an integral component of strategy. For instance, a series of African-American, student-led “sit-ins” in legally segregated spaces swept through the South in the early 1960s; a few years later, farm workers in California conducted strikes, pickets, and boycotts to improve their terms of employment; and in the early 1990s, predominately immigrant, Latino janitors in Southern California marched through the streets, halted traffic, and struck to win union recognition.   Globally, activists from South Africa to Burma have likewise innovated. Yet the context and political opportunities of social movements have changed dramatically over the last several decades. Neoliberal political reforms and the relative freedom of capital to circulate around the globe have significantly altered the strengths and vulnerabilities of particular movement targets, including firms, the state, and educational institutions. And the post-9/11 geopolitical landscape expanded the domestic purview of the state to regulate protest.  Mass movements in Chile, Egypt, Spain, the UK, and elsewhere, mobilized around such deeply entrenched, widespread social issues – forging alliances between a wide array of social actors previously organized around parochial issues.  In 1962, the student authors of the Port Huron Statement called on the university community to “make fraternal and functional contact with allies in labor, civil rights, and other liberal forces outside campus.” Students have played and continue to play an important role in social movements from the Civil Rights Movement, to the Egyptian revolution.  “From Port Huron to Occupy Wall Street” will feature graduate student research.  Plenary speakers will include Tom Hayden (main author of the 1962 Port Huron Statement that launched Students for a Democratic Society) and other leaders of insurgent movements of the last 50 years. We invite graduate students to submit abstracts (250-500 words) with a historical or contemporary focus that speak to one or more of the following questions about movements in the US or elsewhere:       

  • What makes movement practices insurgent or disruptive? 
  • Why are particular insurgent practices effective or not? What are the sources of innovation with respect to insurgent practices?       
  • How does social context, including the “political opportunity structure” – shape the form and efficacy of insurgent practices? How has neoliberal globalization affected the emergence, course, and consequences of such practices? How has the growth of the security state affected the emergence, course, and consequences of insurgent protest forms?       
  • What role does the nature and identity of movement participants and allies play in insurgent social movements?  How does student participation shape movement dynamics? How do movements like Occupy Wall Street shape and reconcile the wide range of participants’ identities? 

ABSTRACTS ARE DUE JANUARY 27.  Please send abstract in a Word or PDF file to with “Port Huron Abstract” in the subject line.  Include graduate school affiliation, and email.

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