Chapter summaries
Chapter resources
Bonus chapter
About the author


Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1 argues that music played a crucial role in virtually every dimension of the African American Civil Rights movement. It traces the rise and varied use of the "freedom songs," as activists transformed deep-seeded Black religious and secular musical traditions into a major resource for the struggle against racial injustice.

Chapter 2 focuses on the Black Power phase of the African American liberation struggle, demonstrating that the Black Panther Party can be seen as engaging in a deadly serious form of political drama on the national and world stage. The chapter, like most, challenges easy distinctions between culture and politics, in this case between literary dramas and the "theater" of politics.

Chapter 3 looks at the emergence and development of a new radical wave of women's movements beginning in the mid-1960s. Here I focus on the role of poetry as one site of feminist consciousness-raising action, and as a resource in the formation of a variety of contested feminist identities rooted in differences of race, ethnicity, class, sexuality and nationality, as they have evolved up to the present.

Chapter 4 treats the Chicano/a Movement, focusing on the ways in which the thousands of murals produced in and around the Brown power movimiento embody and reflect the political and cultural changes the movement generates in its efforts to bring justice to U.S. communities of Mexican descent.

Chapter 5 focuses on the group that called itself the American Indian Movement (AIM), one of the key organizations in the wider Native American Red Power Movement. This chapter examines the ways in which the movement‚s story has been told through the widely circulated, if inevitably distorting, medium of the Hollywood film.

Chapter 6 takes a look at the role played by pop and rock music in movements of the mid 1980s, especially the student-based anti-apartheid movement. Student movements, from the 1930s to the 1960s to the 1980s and into the present have used popular culture as an organizing tool. In focusing on one of these waves of student activism, I try to show the important potential, as well as the limits, of using pop culture as a force in the promotion of social movements.

Chapter 7 analyzes the brilliant use of graphic arts (posters, T-shirts, banners, stickers, etc.) by ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), the movement group at the forefront of the fight against HIV/AIDS.  I focus on how the group mobilized both the gay community and other affected populations through a direct action campaign illustrating how homophobia, racism, sexism, and class prejudice had created a deadly "epidemic of signification" that stalled progress in saving lives.

Chapter 8  addresses the relationship between academia and social movements by describing an emerging trend in the academic literary and cultural study that I call "environmental justice eco-criticism." The environmental justice movement has shown over two decades how envirionmental dangers have unevenly fallen upon poor whites and people of color, and demonstrates how the field of ecocriticism needs to expand beyond its concern with wildernenss appreciation to treat these complex issues.

Chapter 9 rounds out the movement story by focusing on the broad, coalitional movement against corporate globalization. Here I analyze the ways in which the new medium of the Internet has helped foster a global culture of resistance to the poverty, environmental degradation, and human rights abuses brought about by forms of globalization which attend only to the rights of corporations and nation-states.

Chapter 10 offers some concluding "Reflections on the Cultural Study of Social Movements." It raises more systematic questions about various relations between culture(s) and movements that are discussed and exemplified in the course of the book. Those seeking a more explicit framework of analysis through which to think culture-movement relations may wish to read this final chapter first. It is aimed a bit more at academic movement scholars than the other chapters, but I think it can be useful to all readers.