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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Resistance Studies

This guide supports activities of the Resistance Studies Initiative at UMass Amherst, which strives to understand the dynamic relations among forms of resistance and power and how they relate to social change.


What is Resistance Studies?

‘Resistance studies’ is the interdisciplinary and critical exploration of the links between non-military forms of resistance, and power/domination and social change. It is closely connected to several theoretical traditions, mainly nonviolent action studies, ‘contentious politics’, social movement studies, revolution studies, and studies of ‘everyday forms of resistance’, and ‘autonomist’ approaches to radical politics. 

Simultaneously it draws from many other similar fields: gender studies and feminism, queer studies, peace studies, critical race studies, critical legal studies, and
so on.

These many disciplines, models, theories, and discussions relate because  ‘resistance’  potentially 
challenges all forms of domination
. Historically it emerged in the 1980s from subaltern studies, the history-from-below movement and peasant studies. 


Journal of Resistance Studies

The Journal of Resistance Studies

The Journal of Resistance Studies ( has been created to encourage the formal development of resistance studies around the globe by providing a forum for presenting and discussing perspectives, arguments, and findings. An international, interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed scientific journal, it focuses on critically understanding unarmed resistance strategies, discourses, tactics, effects, causes, contexts, and experiences. Other outlets offer critical studies of wars and terror; this journal exists to deal with resistance by other means. We are, however, interested in critical analysis of instances of nonmilitary resistance hegemonically being labeled “violent,” “armed,” or “terrorist.”

The Journal of Resistance Studies welcomes critical reflections, evaluations, theoretical developments, or empirically based analysis. We encourage broad critical discussion on the possibilities, forms, conditions, and problematics of resistance. We will avoid dogmatic agendas, will not favor any particular framework, and will debate definitions of resistance.

Resistance Studies at UMass

As we define it, resistance challenges all forms of domination—not just “the state,”but capitalism’s exploitative practices, the status quo’s discursive truth-regimes and normative orders, and sociocultural patriarchal hierarchies of gender, race, status, caste, and taste. In resisting any of these, activists question, challenge, and undermine not only the state, but power as such.

The Resistance Studies Initiative will cover unarmed resistance in the broadest sense, considering all means and techniques in all of their manifestations, mechanisms, techniques, and dynamics, and in all of their historical, cultural, and political contexts. We are especially interested in culturally creative forms of resistance, those that are humorous, surprising, and innovative, and tap technology in order to mobilize people in greater numbers than might attend any one event.


The Resistance Studies Initiative will study how resistance can undermine repression, injustices, and domination of all kinds, and how it can nurture such creative responses as constructive work, alternative communities, and oppositional ways of thinking.
It plans to do this by—

Energetically encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration with academics at UMass Amherst and elsewhere

Maintaining strong ties with activists worldwide, documenting their activities, and providing critical analysis upon request

Offering academic courses in Resistance Studies at UMass Amherst

Mounting resistance-themed workshops, lecture series, and symposiums

Working closely with the other members of the international Resistance Studies Network to encourage worldwide scholarly, pro-liberation collaboration

Publishing the international, interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed Journal of Resistance Studies.


As part of its academic component, every fall until at least 2021, the Resistance Studies Initiative will offer undergraduate and graduate courses. They will include “Postcolonial and Indigenous Resistance,” “Constructive Resistance: Alternatives to Domination,” and others covering various aspects of resistance in relation to military occupation, capitalism, campaign strategies and impacts, repression and counter-repression, research methodology, gender and patriarchy, race and ethnicity, queer politics and norms, and more.
We began in 2015 with two:

Civil Resistance and the Everyday, a graduate-level course, takes a sociological approach to resistance in the everyday life of ordinary people, be it widespread and diffused, individual or small-scale, implicitly political, disguised, or even hidden. It reveals how the private or personal can be political, and explores creative forms of cultural resistance. Special attention is paid to domination and resistance in everyday life, and how resistance can sometimes liberate only to engender new modes of domination.

Civil Resistance and Social Change, an upper-level undergraduate course, focuses on so-called “nonviolent direct action,” “people power,” “unarmed insurrection,” or “the color revolution,” applying sociological perspectives to the causes, effects, and dynamics of resistance in political and non-institutional mobilizations. It further considers how organized, strategic, and mass-mobilized popular resistance sometimes brings about change only to spawn new forms of domination.



To learn more about the Resistance Studies Initiative:
Email: Resistance Studies Office at
Call: +1 413-545-0394


Check out the ScholarWorks page for the Resistance Studies Initiative.

ScholarWorks is the digital showcase of UMass Amherst projects, papers, images and other output.

RSI content will be added ongoingly, starting with a Student Showcase.