Tag Archives: nonviolent

Gene Sharp has died and the world has lost a global educator

We join with so many scholars and activists around the world who appreciate the life and work of Gene Sharp, who died on January 28, 2018 at the age of 90. His impact on our work is hard to express. We are so grateful.

Jørgen Johansen has offered a beautiful and informative orbituary that we would like to share here.

Gene Sharp


Gene Sharp has died and the world has lost a global educator

by Jørgen Johansen

Just a week after his 90th birthday Gene Sharp passed away.
The journal New Statesman once described Gene Sharp as the “Machiavelli of Nonviolence” and Thomas Weber labelled him “the Clausewitz of Nonviolent Action.” Who was this man and what is his contribution to our understanding of the possibilities to use nonviolent actions in large scale societal conflicts?
Gene Sharp completed his baccalaureate in 1949, just a few scant years after the close of World War II, and quickly turned his attention to the study of nonviolence. After serving nine months in prison for being a conscientious objector to the Korean War, Sharp secretaried for A.J. Muste. He next joined the editorial team of Peace News in London before accepting an invitation from Arne Næss to join him in Oslo with Johan Galtung and others to study the philosophy and practice of Mohandas Gandhi. Throughout this time, Sharp exchanged letters with Albert Einstein, deepening his understanding of and commitment to nonviolence.

While in Oslo, Sharp devoted much time to interviewing teachers who resisted the Quisling government during the Nazi occupation of Norway. Through these interviews, Sharp began to formulate the ideas that would come to constitute his major contribution to nonviolence theory. Moving away from a strictly philosophical, moral, or spiritual nonviolence in the vein of Gandhi, Sharp turned instead to a pragmatic nonviolence. The rest of his life would be spent delineating and analyzing the practical tools of effective nonviolent action.

After his years in Oslo, Sharp pursued his PhD at Oxford University. In 1968 he defended his thesis, The Politics of Nonviolent Action: A study in the control of political power. He continued to develop his thesis work and five years later Porter Sargent published his monumental The Politics of Nonviolent Action, from which “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action” is taken. This book from 1973 has been called “the bible for nonviolent activists” and is still in print nearly 50 years later. Through this and myriad other writings, Sharp contended against a normative approach to nonviolence, where the practice of nonviolence is formulated as a spiritual directive. Nonviolent action need have no moral impetus to be effective; nonviolent actions may be pursued on a purely practical basis on the ground that they are simply the most effective tools available to social and political movements. Indeed, much research by Sharp and others has shown that in the long term nonviolent revolutionary achievements are far more permanent than those fought with kalashnikovs and guerrilla warfare.

Taking this a step further, Sharp maintained that nonviolence could not only resist and overthrow dictatorships or occupations, but could effectively replace all militaries. By thoroughly training the civilian populace in nonviolent strategies and tactics, a nation could make itself ungovernable at will. If such a nation were to be invaded, it could never be subjugated. Those in powerful positions can punish but not force individuals to follow their orders without a certain level of cooperation. As history has shown, people practicing total noncooperation will only serve to drag down their oppressor. The burden of an inoperative state outweighs the benefits of its occupation.

This part of the heritage from Sharp is less known and accepted than his works on nonviolent actions by actors outside the state. Sharp worked hard to convince politicians around the world of his position. Despite some positive feedback from Sweden, Norway and the Baltic states, however, the discussions never moved from the fringe to the central political agenda in any country. The main argument against a national, civilian-based defense might be that such an “army” could also be used against its own state. Does the government trust its own people enough to enable their use of nonviolent actions on a massive scale? Many doubt that they could! We may hope, however, that these ideas came at the wrong time in history and that future discussions will give them the credit they deserve.

The revitalization of research on nonviolent actions after the so-called “Arab Spring” might make such discussions possible.
Though he may not have convinced governments to adopt nonviolent training, it is clear that grassroots political and social movements have taken up Sharp’s writings with a passion. The last fifty years has seen the steady spread of Sharp’s fingerprint in movements around the world. When Gandhi and his movement liberated India from the British colonizers in 1947, their use of nonviolent actions was an exception among revolutionary groups. An important shift in strategy took place in the late seventies and early eighties, however. When the Shah was forced to leave Iran in 1979 and Solidarity organized the workers in Poland in 1980, we saw some exiting examples of movements that based their struggle on nonviolent strategies and tactics. To what degree these movements were familiar with the works of Gene Sharp we do not know. What is clear, however, is that revolutionary movements in the next four decades adopted a broad and ever-broadening range of nonviolent actions and strategies—those same strategies Sharp had been elucidating.

Later, when several of Sharp’s key works were translated into dozens of languages, his ideas indisputibly inspired thousands of suppressed people searching for ways to fight for their freedom, rights, and for democracy. The removal of president Marcos in the Philippines in 1986, the liberation of Eastern Europe and dismantling of the Soviet Union after 1989, the first Intifada in Palestine in 1990-91, the Colored Revolutions following the fall of Milosevic in Serbia in 2000, and the uprising in the MENA region from 2011 onwards all evidenced deep understanding of practical nonviolent revolution. Journalists, activists, academics, and politicians then found a new interest in these fascinating regime changes and their theoretical sources. For each and all of them the works of Gene Sharp now became obligatory—and enlightening—reading.

When Sharp began his study, peace research was a small, odd branch on the academic oak. A hardly visible twig on that branch focused on nonviolence. Seventy years later the field has expanded to be a significant part of several academic disciplines. It has also moved beyond the university campus, reaching suppressed people around the world and turning theoretical ideas into practical tools for social movements. Sharp’s lifelong research and voluminous writings have played a crucial role in this development.

When, at the age of 84, Sharp received the 2012 Right Livelihood Award, he humbly played-down his role as a source of inspiration for the twentieth century’s swell—and the twenty-first century’s tsunami—of unarmed revolutions and social movements. He did note, however, that for the first time in his entire life he found himself interviewed by journalists who at least understood what is was that he was talking about.
His contribution to the field of nonviolent actions will for ever be seen as the equivalent to the first humans landing on the moon. A majority of present researchers in the field of nonviolence have benefited enormously by building on the works and theories published by Gene. Many of us have now lost a friend and many more lost an important source of inspiration.

Animating Resistance: Live Cinema Explorations of the Global Nonviolent Action Database

Animating Resistance: Live Cinema Explorations of the Global Nonviolent Action Database

Prof. Ali Momeni, Carnegie Mellon University

  • 19 April: 5:00 p.m. Artist’s Lecture in Science Center Room 101
  • 20 April: 12:30-6:30 pm and 8:00-10:00 pm Workshop in Kohlberg 326 Language Center
  • 21 April: 8:00 pm Outdoor Performance (Pearson Hall Lawn. Rain Location: LPAC Lobby)

More details.

Prof. Ali Momeini residency

The theme for this workshop and performance will be Swarthmore College’s Peace and Conflict Studies’ inimitable and inspiring Global Nonviolent Action Database. Momeni and the workshop participants will collaborative create and perform a live cinema/projection performance that consists of animations depicting and annotating the contents of this database in playful and performative ways. Momeni will be assisted by artist and MFA Candidate Davey Steinman for this performance.

Ali Momeni’s performance project at Swarthmore College will combine cinema, outdoor projection, improvisation, animation, “depicting the characters, setting and methods of specific actions from the Global Nonviolent Action Database like an animated graphic novel.”

Momeni was born in Isfahan, Iran and emigrated to the United States at the age of twelve. He studied physics and music at Swarthmore College and completed his doctoral degree in music composition, improvisation and performance with computers from the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies at UC Berkeley. He spent three years in Paris where he collaborated with performers and researchers from La Kitchen, IRCAM, Sony CSL and CIRM.

Profl. Ali Momeni
Photo credit: iMAL.org under Creative Commons license 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/ http://bit.ly/2oRJgje

Between 2007 and 2011, Momeni was an assistant professor in the Department of Art at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where he directed the Spark Festival of Electronic Music and Art, and founded the urban projection collective called the MAW. Momeni is currently an associate professor in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University and directs CMU ArtFab, teaches in CMU’s IDEATE, Music Technology and Masters in Tangible Interaction Design degrees.

Momeni’s current research interests include performative applications of robotics, playful urban interventions, interactive projection performance, machine learning for artists and designers, interactive tools for storytelling and experiential learning, mobile and hybrid musical instruments, and the intersection of sound, music and health.

Davey T Steinman is an artist and explorer working at the crossroads of performance and technology. Davey is currently pursuing an M.F.A. in Video and Media Design in the School of Drama at Carnegie Mellon University.

This event is free and open to the public.

Sponsors: The Cooper Serendipity Fund, Kohlberg Language Center, Dept. of Theater, and Dept. of Music and Dance

King, Women’s March, Swarthmore College, and Quakers

A message from Chris Densmore, Curator of the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College:

A few years ago, I was looking for documentation of Martin Luther King Jr. and the early days of the Civil Rights Movement in the records of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends.  It seemed like something for the Race Relations Committee to handle, but there was nothing there.  A little more digging located the records I was seeking in the Peace Committee and more specifically in a subcommittee on non-violence.

This week began with commemorations of Dr. King.  On Saturday, there will be a Women’s March in Washington, DC, and Sister Marches worldwide.  I was both pleased and a bit surprised to read their statement of “Guiding Principles” on their website which was explicitly based on Martin Luther King Jr., and the principles of non-violence. It also strikes me that these principles and this approach to conflict comes close to how some people understand Swarthmore College’s heritage of Quaker values.  It is not just a strategy for confronting the evils of the day, but a strategy for daily living. It is what King and others referred to as the Beloved Community.  \

— Christopher Densmore, Curator, Friends Historical Library.

March on Washington

Redefining Revolution & Nonviolence: Re-imagining Solidarity Across Race

As part of Black History Month activities, Matt Meyer, organizer, author, and editor of We Have Not Been Moved: Resisting Racism and Militarism (PM Press) discussed revolutionary nonviolence, privilege, solidarity, and alliance building in higher education.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016
7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Scheuer Room in Kohlberg Hall at Swarthmore College
This event was free and open to the public.
Download a flyer at http://bit.ly/meyerflyer
Matt Meyer flyer
photo credit: Consuelo Kanaga

Video of the event is now available.

Audio of the event is now available.


A native New York City-based educator, activist, and author, Matt Meyer is coordinator of the War Resisters International Africa Support Network, and a United Nations/ECOSOC representative of the International Peace Research Association. The founding Chair of the Peace and Justice Studies Association and former Chair of the Consortium on Peace Research, Education and Development (COPRED), Meyer has long worked to bring together academics and activists for lasting social change.
Matt Meyer at Swarthmore College
Matt Meyer spoke in the Scheuer Room on February 10, 2016

Meyer’s work in K-12 public education and teacher training included ten years of service as Multicultural Coordinator for the NYC Board of Education’s Alternative High Schools & Programs, as well as a stint as Union Leader of a local section of the United Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO. He helped found and direct a mini-school in collaboration with St. Luke’s/Roosevelt Hospital’s Child and Family Institute (CFI), and led a psycho-educational CFI research delegation on re-integration and treatment of child soldiers in West and Central Africa and related work in “inner-city” USA; he also helped in the early development of the Harvey Milk High School, the first US “safe space” school for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. Twice-decorated as “teacher of the year” by two Community School District Superintendents, Meyer’s continuous efforts as a high school-based historian and peace educator have spanned over 30 years.

Matt is an outstanding scholar-practitioner and leader in the field of peace and justice studies and is an accomplished Africanist scholar and educator, and has done much to bring critical race theory into dialogue with peace and conflict studies. You may read his recent co-authored piece “Refusing to Choose Between Martin and Malcolm: Ferguson, Black Lives Matter, and a New Nonviolent Revolution” at Counterpunch.org.

We Have Not Been Moved

Co-sponsors: Peace and Conflict Studies, President’s Office, Black Cultural Center, Black Studies Program, Intercultural Center, History Department, Educational Studies Department, Sociology and Anthropology Department

This event builds on a theme the Peace and Conflict Studies program initiated last semester with the American Friends Service Committee poster exhibit in McCabe Library, “All of Us or None: Responses & Resistance to Militarism.”

AFSC Exhibit Fall 2015

Nefertiti’s Daughters: Street Art of the Egyptian Uprisings

From our friends in Modern Languages and Literatures

Nefertiti’s Daughters: Street Art of the Egyptian Uprisings

Director Mark Nickolas will be joining us for a screening of his award winning documentary Nefertiti’s Daughters (2015, 40 minutes) followed by a Q&A session.

November 20, 2015; 2:15-4:00 p.m.
Kohlberg Hall Room 228
Swarthmore College (directions)


Nefertiti’s Daughters is a story of women, art and revolution in Egypt. Told by prominent Egyptian artists, this documentary witnesses the critical role revolutionary street art played during the Egyptian uprisings.

Focused on the role of women artists in the struggle for social and political change, Nefertiti’s Daughters spotlights how the iconic graffiti of Queen Nefertiti places her on the front lines in the ongoing fight for women’s rights and freedoms in Egypt today.

The film’s director Mark Nickolas is a long time veteran of US democratic politics, most notably to then Vice President Al Gore, before emerging as a prominent figure in the political media world.

Contact Information:
Name: Benjamin Smith   bsmith3
Phone: 610-328-8597

Egyptian cases of nonviolent resistance in Egypt are available at http://bit.ly/1SLrsLX

How Nonviolent Movements Can Deal with Repression and Violence

Civil Resistance

Prof. Lee Smithey will be part of a guest Twitter panel on “How Nonviolent Movements Can Deal with Repression and Violence” on Thursday, August 20 at 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. EST

The panel is being sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace Global Campus course on “Civil Resistance and the Dynamics of Nonviolent Movements.”

Follow #pdoxrep on Twitter on Thursday and feel free to participate!

Professor Smithey is completing an edited book on The Paradox of Repression, co-edited with Lester R. Kurtz.

You can review cases of nonviolent campaigns that have involved repression against nonviolent activists that backfired against authorities in the Global Nonviolent Action Database, based at Swarthmore College.

New cases added to the Global Nonviolent Action Database

Seventy-six new cases have been added to the Global Nonviolent Action Database by students in the spring semester Strategy and Nonviolent Struggle course at Swarthmore College.

The Global Nonviolent Action Database presents cases of nonviolent civil resistance from around the world, spanning decades and even hundreds of years. Data is provided in a narrative format, and each case is classified across a number of criteria to allow for comparisons and advanced searches.

A selection of the new cases include:

Glasgow rent strike 1915 BBC CC
Glasgow Rent Strike during World War I (BBC)

To view more than one thousand cases of nonviolent civil resistance in the database, visit http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu and follow on Twitter and Facebook.


For Fall 2015! Research Seminar: Strategy and Nonviolent Struggle

PEAC 071B. Research Seminar: Strategy and Nonviolent Struggle (Cross-listed as POLS 081 / SOCI 071B) will be offered during the Spring Semester 2015.

Global Nonviolent Action Database banner


This one-credit research seminar involves working and updating the Global Nonviolent Action Database which can be accessed by activists and scholars worldwide at http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu. The database was built at Swarthmore College and includes cases of “people power” drawn from dozens of countries. The database contains crucial information on campaigns for human rights, democracy, environmental sustainability, economic justice, national/ethnic identity, and peace.

Students will be expected to research a series of cases and write them up in two ways: within a template of fields (the database proper) and also as a 2-3 page narrative that describes the unfolding struggle.  In addition to research/writing methods, students will also draw on theories in the field.  Strategic implications for today will be drawn from theory and from what the group learns from the documented cases of wins and losses experienced by people’s struggles.

This writing (W) course has a limited enrollment of 12 students.

You can learn more by visiting a collection of posts about the database in the Peace and Conflict Studies blog.

In this video, Professor Lakey introduced the launch of the database in 2011.


Fall 2015 Line-up of Peace & Conflict Studies Courses

In addition to all of the excellent courses offered across campus that may be counted toward a minor in Peace and Conflicts Studies, our own program curriculum is expanding next year!

PEAC 015. Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies

In Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies, we learn that peace and conflict are not mutually exclusive. To paraphrase Conrad Brunk, the goal of peace and conflict studies is to better understand conflict in order to find nonviolent ways of turning unjust relationships into more just ones. We examine both the prevalence of coercive and non-peaceful means of conducting conflict as well as the development of nonviolent alternatives, locally and globally, through institutions and at the grassroots. The latter include nonviolent collective action, mediation, peacekeeping, and conflict transformation work. Several theoretical and philosophical lenses will be used to explore cultural and psychological dispositions, conflict in human relations, and conceptualizations of peace. The course will take an interdisciplinary approach with significant contributions from the social sciences. U.S.-based social justice movements, such as the struggle for racial equality, and global movements, such as nonviolent activism in Israel/Palestine, and the struggle for climate justice around the world, will serve as case studies.

1 credit. Tues/Thurs. 1:15-2:30 pm

Instructor: Sa’ed Atshan

 PEAC 039. Social Entrepreneurship for Social Change (NEW COURSE!)

By integrating innovative approaches with revenue-generating practices, social entrepreneurs and their ventures open compelling and impactful avenues to social change. In this course, students will learn about the pioneering individuals and novel ways that social entrepreneurship responds to social needs that are not adequately served by the market or by the state through in-depth case analysis of social change work (locally, nationally, and globally).

1 credit. Mondays 1:15-4:00 pm

Instructor: Denise Crossan, Lang Professor for Social Change


 PEAC 053. Israeli-Palestinian Conflict  (NEW COURSE!)

This course will examine the historical underpinnings of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how they have shaped the contemporary context in Israel/Palestine. We will approach this from a demography and population-studies framework in order to understand the trajectories and heterogeneity of Israeli and Palestinian societies and politics. For instance, how has the relationship between race and period of migration to Israel impacted Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Israeli sub-populations differently? What explains divergent voting patterns between Palestinian Christians and Muslims over time? How can we measure inequality between Israeli settlers and Palestinian natives in the West Bank in the present? The course will also synthesize competing theoretical paradigms that account for the enduring nature of this conflict. This includes—but is not limited to—the scholarly contributions of realist political scientists, US foreign policy experts, social movements theorists, security sector reformers, human rights advocates, international law experts, and negotiations and conflict resolution practitioners.

Eligible POLS and ISLM credit.

1 credit. Tues./Thurs. 2:40-3:55 pm

Instructor: Sa’ed Atshan

PEAC 071B. Research Seminar: Strategy and Nonviolent Struggle

(Cross-listed as POLS 081 and SOCI 071B)

This research seminar involves working with The Global Nonviolent Action Database built at Swarthmore College. This website is accessed by activists and scholars worldwide. The database contains crucial information on campaigns for human rights, democracy, environmental sustainability, economic justice, national/ethnic identity, and peace. Students will investigate a series of research cases and write them up in two ways: within a template of fields (the database proper) and also as a narrative describing the unfolding struggle. Strategic implications will be drawn from theory and from what the group is learning from the documented cases of wins and losses experienced by people’s struggles.

1 credit.  Mondays 1:15-4:00 pm

Instructor: Lee Smithey