Hopeful and Powerful: Nonviolent Action in Global Culture
Seminar - UHON 401

Instructor(s): Leslie Donovan

Course Description

Modern research increasingly confirms that, over the last 100 years or so, "nonviolent resistance campaigns are nearly twice as likely to achieve full or partial success as their violent counterparts" (Chenoweth and Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works, 7). From well-known figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dalai Lama, and Mahatma Gandhi to less-known advocates such as C. T. Vivian, Cesar Chavez, and Rigoberta Menchú, historical leaders have used nonviolent action to bring hope to people in communities across the world. Alternative, nonviolent resistance models that address the needs of everyday people and empower diverse communities are kindling new interest and attention, arising partly from the social unrest and pandemic despair so many of us have experienced over the last few years. In this reading-intensive, second 8-weeks course, we will study the words and actions of recent nonviolent leaders and movements to understand their methods and impact on global history and culture. 

Through several short research projects in this second 8-weeks course, we will learn how witty protest signs, stirring speeches, and committed marchers have effected hoped-for change in the minds and hearts of governments as well as bystanders. Using co-learning practices in which we actively seek out new information to share with each other, we will investigate how poems and graffiti, music and sermons, flash mobs and songs, and a multitude of objects from art and nature are employed to communicate powerful messages for nonviolent change. While materials and assignments are rooted in history and contemporary news sources, our work together also will incorporate such interdisciplinary fields as political science, philosophy, communication theory, art and design, music, popular culture, sociology, and oral history. However, even though the river of nonviolent resistance runs wide and deep, this course will introduce only some of its most general principles and uses. By collaborating to understand this vital force of community engagement and inspiration, our goal is to gain a basic appreciation for the growth and relevance of nonviolent thought and action in the 21st century.


A Force More Powerful (1999 documentary film in 2 parts, each about 1:20 minutes long)

Dolores (2018 documentary film, about 1:40 minutes long)

It's in the Action: Memories of a Nonviolent Warrior by C. T. Vivian with Steve Fiffer and Andrew Young

An Organizer's Tale: Speeches by Cesar Chavez (edited by Ilan Stavans)

We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes the World by Todd Hasak-Lowy

Additional online readings and videos on nonviolent resistance will be assigned on the following topics: Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo; indigenous peoples in Latin America; women in nonviolent actions; disability rights protests; global student protests; climate change activism; American Indian movements in the late 20th and early 21st centuries; Chicano/a/x power; Asian actions; LGBTQ+ protests; efforts in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Australia and New Zealand; and others 


Extensive honors community-building requirements (such as attendance, participation, and online discussion), 3 projects (video, analysis, creative), and a final portfolio.

About the Instructor(s): Leslie Donovan

Currently serving as Interim Dean for the Honors College, Leslie Donovan completed the Honors Program, her BA, and her MA from UNM, before earning a PhD from the University of Washington in Seattle. She has published scholarship on J.R.R. Tolkien, Beowulf, Old English women, and honors teaching. Dr. Donovan has been honored with multiple outstanding teaching awards, including UNM’s Presidential Teaching award. She is the Faculty Advisor for UNM’s Regents Scholars program and for the Hobbit Society student group.