2021 Outstanding Academic Titles: Social Justice and Activism

Five selections from the Choice Reviews 2021 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week to honor Pride Month, we highlight Choice 2021 Outstanding Academic Titles about Social Justice and Activism.

Outstanding Academic Titles Social Justice and Activism: Canada's other Red scare bookcover
1. Canada’s other Red scare: indigenous protest and colonial encounters during the global sixties
Rutherford, Scott. McGill-Queen’s, 2020

Kenora, a small city in northwest Ontario, rarely makes headlines in Canadian news. However, for six weeks during the summer of 1974 Kenora gained national attention when 150 Anishinaabe “Ojibway Warriors” occupied a city park as part of a decolonizing protest in connection with the American Civil Rights and American Indian Movements, global Marxism, and decolonization efforts happening throughout what was then called the Third World. Rutherford (global development studies and cultural studies, Queen’s Univ., Canada) situates this protest within these global influences and highlights the movement’s intellectual depth. He thus recalls an event that exemplifies both the persistence of colonialism in Canada and the country’s attempt to erase dissent by affirming its multicultural exceptionalism in the face of the US’s racial tensions. Kenora is effectively used as a microcosm to analyze racial and class tensions that pervaded and continue to pervade Canada as a whole. View on Amazon.

2. Contentious minds: how talk and ties sustain activism
by Alex Bakker et al University of Caby Florence Passy and Gian-Andrea Monsch Oxford, 2020
Outstanding Academic Titles Social Justice and Activism: Contentious Minds book cover

Contentious Minds addresses a serious gap in the literature on social movements. Much of the previous discussion has been about the social/structural determinants that create an environment for social activism. Little has been said about individuals and what they are thinking when they join activist organizations. This book bridges the gap between the individual and the organizations that together constitute a social movement. Passy and Monsch (both, Univ. of Lausanne, Switzerland) examine in detail the social mind of the individual and suggest that personal commitment to social justice organizations is a complex process of interaction between the individual and the social structure. By bringing the construction of meaning by the individual activist back into focus, the authors provide a roadmap for understanding how activists perceive their own political allegiances as well as how they construct networks and are influenced by experiences in crosscutting political organizations. The authors focus on conversational interactions within “islands of meaning” (networks) to demonstrate how synchronized meanings are reproduced within organizations. In doing so, they show how the construction of meaning is critical to the production of an activist toolkit. View on Amazon

3. Why we act: turning bystanders into moral rebels
ed. by Moji Anderson and Erin C. MacLeod University of the West Indies Press, 2020
Outstanding Academic Titles Social Justice and Activism: Why we act book cover

Why do people “stand by” and allow bad things to happen to others? Why do bystanders remain silent? Sanderson (Amherst College) makes a persuasive argument about moral courage, building the case that this quality is not innate. In this three-part text she presents relatable examples of bad behavior (part 1: “The Silence of the Good People”), case histories of institutionally supported misbehavior (part 2: “Bullies and Bystanders”), and detailed accounts of training programs and studies designed to elicit ethical behavior given a choice (part 3: “Learning to Act”). In so doing, Sanderson provides not only an answer to the age-old mystery of why so many of us fail to intervene when we should, but also a demonstration of how to support and practice intentional resistance instead of looking away. Although good people can be complicit in behavior they know is wrong, to change this dynamic, Sanderson challenges readers to become moral rebels, foster empathy, and practice supporting others to do the same. Crucially, she recommends building alliances so that we do not have to enact change alone. View on Amazon.

4. Trauma and repair: confronting segregation and violence in America
Stopford, Annie. Lexington Books, 2020
Outstanding Academic Titles Social Justice and Activism: Trauma and repair book cover

Stopford provides a sometimes stark, oftentimes heart-breaking, and consistently informative “eyes wide open” look at the consequences of community violence and racial segregation in the US. It is likely tempting for some to consider segregation in this country a thing of the past. But, as this author so clearly shows, segregation still comes in all shapes and sizes and involves much more than physical barriers or written policies. This book is not—nor should it be—an easy read. But Stopford employs a toolkit of psychological and sociological observations with adeptness and clarity to reveal the clinical and sociological impacts of marginalization, trauma, violence, and economic disparity. The narratives shared by Stopford’s respondents are rich and moving, revealing lived experiences in Baltimore, Maryland; Oakland, California; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Elainen, Arkansas. These are presented as real narratives—not “general” but instead, and more importantly, unvarnished and pure. Stopford’s use of this technique offers readers a clear foray into past injustice and a realistic assessment of current injustice, allowing her to show not only what needs to be done to end such systemic trauma in the present but also how we might begin to repair the damage already done. View on Amazon.

5. Front of the house, back of the house: race and inequality in the lives of restaurant workers
Wilson, Eli Revelle Yano. New York University, 2020
Outstanding Academic Titles Social Justice and Activism: Front of the house, back of the house book cover

This ethnographic analysis of restaurant work brilliantly highlights the micro-interactions and hierarchies in between and within the front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house restaurant jobs, which produce and reinforce systemic racial inequalities. Using his keen lens of participant observation and his powerful writing style, Wilson (Univ. of New Mexico) takes readers into the world of high-end dining in Los Angeles. He shares the often-unnoticed, taken-for-granted ways that managers, customers, and even workers themselves sort workers into different and unequal jobs rooted in systems of inequality and socially coded expectations that advantage some and disadvantage others. This book is a must read for students and scholars who are interested in the racialized coding of labor in US workplaces, and will be a seminal text for both the sociology of work and ethnographic studies. View on Amazon.

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