Global Activism and Social Movements

Course content

During the November 1999 “Battle of Seattle,” activists from a plethora of groups and organizations took to the streets of Seattle to disrupt a meeting of the WTO (World Trade Organization). 

Since then, other transnational social movements emerged to protest and fight against—among other targets—free trade, the World Bank and IMF and most recently climate change.  What are the movements behind this most recent phase of international activism? How might we understand social movements that operate both within and beyond the traditional boundaries of the nation-state? What might transnational social movements teach us about connections between the local and the global? Is there an emerging global civil society and if so, what does it look like? 

The course will familiarize students with the current set of debates surrounding contemporary transnational social movements and shed light on its larger historical context. We will approach the topic by looking at various theoretical concepts and perspectives of social movements studies and draw empirically from a number of Western and non-Western cases.

The course will span international social movement activities beginning with the anti-slavery movement of the nineteenth century and conclude with the current anti-globalization movement. We will examine relevant early theoretical works on collective behavior, resource mobilization and political process perspectives as well as investigate theories of “new” social movements.

The final section of the course will focus on contemporary forms of activism.  Do the chosen strategies, targets and organizational forms of transnational activists differ from those of previous transnational movements? Does media coverage affect how and when transnational movements mobilize? In answering these questions, we will examine “new” and “old” social movements and transnational collective action from a comparative-historical and sociological perspective.


MA Theory and Methodology (MSc Curriculum 2015)

Course package: Knowledge, organisation and politics

BA-Undergraduates from foreign countries (exchange students) can sign up for this course.

Creditstudents must be at master level

Learning outcome
  • Develop an understanding of theoretical traditions within the sociological field of social movement studies.
  • Understand the logic and practice of conducting sociological research.
  • Develop an understanding of the impact of social issues on your life and how that knowledge can provide you with tools and perspectives with which to approach the world.

The course will be primarily lectures with discussions.

Sidney Tarrow. 2005. The New Transnational Activism. New York: Cambridge University Press.


Charles Tilly. 2004. Social Movements, 1768-2004. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers.


Shareen Hertel. 2006. Unexpected Power: Conflict and Change Among Transnational Activists. Ithaca: ILR Press.


Donatella della Porta and Sidney Tarrow, eds. 2005. Transnational Protest and Global Activism. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Individual or group. A portfolio assignment is defined as a series of short assignments during the course that address one or more set questions and feedback is offered during the course. All of the assignments are submitted together for assessment at the end of the course. The portfolio assignments must be no longer than 10 pages. For group assignments, an extra 5 pages is added per additional student. Further details for this exam form can be found in the Curriculum and in the General Guide to Examinations at KUnet.
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Please see the learning outcome.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 28
  • Course Preparation
  • 92
  • Preparation
  • 40
  • Exam Preparation
  • 46
  • English
  • 206