Activist Graduate School is the online university for activists, by activists.
We are an educational institution designed specifically for the needs of activists who want to take their movement work to the next level. Activist Graduate School is an online learning community where activists collaboratively study. Our emphasis is on university caliber seminars on history, strategy and theory of social change through collective action.
Activist Graduate School faculty and guest lecturers include distinguished activists such as the co-creator of Occupy Wall Street and the co-creator of Black Lives Matter.
Our educational model is unique. Here is how it works: Activist Graduate School faculty teach in-person activist seminars at universities, such as Bard College and UCLA. Each seminar is supplemented with an evening symposium featuring prominent activist guest lecturers. These courses and symposia are filmed, edited and then made available to our online students worldwide.
How to Change the World: Theories and Practices
Whether we are campaigning on civil rights, environmental justice, refugee rights or LGBTQIA and women’s rights, the first prerequisite to success is a theory of social change that guides our methods. The range of potential protest tactics is so plentiful—from direct action in the streets to silent prayerful vigils, self-organized worker cooperatives to electoral ballot initiatives—that every activist, whether consciously or not, relies on a theory of change to decide their actions. If the theory of change underlying our activism is false, then our protests are bound to fail.
At the same time, social change is constant and complex, involving factors both within and beyond human control. Often, an unexamined set of assumptions govern—and limit—our attempts to make change. This mini-course intends to refresh and expand our thinking about activism by studying four different theories of change: voluntarism, structuralism, subjectivism, and theurgism. We will track these theories through case studies, considering how each demonstrates the interplay between individual and world, natural and supernatural.
Over the course of the six-session seminar, online students will develop campaign proposals on an issue of their choice.
Why Do Protests Fail?
Guest Lecturers: Souta Calling Last, Dr. Lenora Fulani, Alicia Garza, and Micah White (moderator)
Filmed at the All Stars Project of New York City
Course Content: 90 minutes of video (three lectures + moderated discussion + questions from audience)
A stimulating evening of revolutionary discussion with Dr. Lenora Fulani, the first woman to run for President and get on the ballot in all 50 states, Alicia Garza, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter, Souta Calling Last, the founder of Indigenous Vision, and Micah White, co-creator of Occupy Wall Street. Each of these thoughtful activists will respond to this provocative question with reference to any protest, historical or contemporary, small or large.
We will evaluate various theories for why contemporary protests are failing. Is it a lack of demands? Police repression? Absence of leadership? Or something deeper? Our goal will be to develop a general theory of protest failure grounded in the concrete experience of contemporary activism. Guiding our collective inquiry will be the hope that understanding protest failure will better equip today’s activists for creating positive social change in their lifetimes.
Housing Justice Activism and Protest: Past, Present, Future
Professors: Ananya Roy, Micah White and Guest Professors/Lecturers
Taught and Filmed at the University of California—Los Angeles Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy
Course Content: TBD
This course examines the housing crisis in the United States through the lens of housing justice. A collaboration between UCLA and Activist Graduate School, the course has the following learning objectives. First, we will study social movements, community organizing, and housing occupations through critical and historical analysis. We are concerned with tactics and strategies as well as the new meanings of land, rent, housing, property, personhood, rights, and collectivism being forged by housing justice activism. Second, while the focus of the course is the United States, with Los Angeles as a case-study, we will eschew American exceptionalism. In the United States, the expansion of socio-economic inequality and enforcement of austerity policies, with manifestations in a crisis of housing affordability, evictions, and displacement, has been met by robust housing movements. Many of these are directly connected with, or inspired by, struggles in other parts of the world. We encourage students to consider these global connections and transnational alliances as they examine the question of housing justice. Third, this course links the housing question to multiple, interconnected processes of criminalization, segregation, and regulation. At work both in the United States and elsewhere, these manifest old and new forms of racialized exclusion and expropriation, and are in turn being met by housing justice struggles committed to racial justice, abolitionism, and decolonization.
The course is structured to focus each week on a different facet of housing justice activism and protest: renter power; predatory financialization; public housing in a global context; police and property; and the land question. For each theme we will consider the history, strategy and theories of change behind established and emergent practices of housing justice with an emphasis on historical analysis and key theoretical frameworks. Each week also includes explicit discussion and analysis of a key tactic of housing justice: rent strike, recuperating housing / vacant building occupations; protesting public housing demolition; anti-gentrification direct action; community land trusts. By the end of the course, students will develop a prediction, in the form of a strategy briefing or narrative scenario, of what the future of housing justice activism might look like and must look like.