Past and Present: Resistance and History

Module code: V1430
Level 6
30 credits in autumn semester
Teaching method: Lecture, Seminar
Assessment modes: Take away paper

There is a contemporary resurgence of interest in the notion of resistance, whether associated with popular participation in recent movements for revolution and regime change around the world, or in protests sparked by recent financial and economic crises. This module places the idea of resistance in historical perspective, employing it as a historical category to analyse critical moments of change and transformation in the past. It considers resistance as:

  • a mode around which social movements have coalesced
  • a means to understand struggles for power within certain social configurations
  • a pattern that can dramatically shape the texture of interactions in everyday life, or the human relationship to the environment.

We begin by considering certain classic examples of resistance, including organising against the occupier in Europe during the Second World War and the resistance of colonised peoples to imperial power (for example during the decolonisation of Africa and Indochina). We then extends the paradigm to consider:

  • how resistance can shape the experiences of everyday life, including the concept of resistant youth subcultures
  • the mobilising of resistance through cultural forms such as music and art
  • resistance as a mode of survival under totalitarian regimes (for example in Eastern Europe during the Cold War)
  • resistance as a conservative mode of action – examining white resistance to civil rights in the southern USA
  • resistance to new technologies in community and environmental activism.

Finally, the module broadens the theme of resistance as a means to understand the relationship between humans and their environment, looking for examples at how responses to natural disasters have shaped ideas of human resilience and endurance, or at how modern Western ideas of masculine heroism were shaped by ideas of resisting the overwhelming forces of nature (for example in the identities of polar explorers of the 19th and 20th centuries).

Module learning outcomes

  • Relate contemporary problems to their historical origin.
  • Construct sophisticated written arguments that demonstrate intellectual maturity and integrity.
  • Provide a coherent written expression of their views and learn how to engage in sustained debate.
  • An ability to undertake a critical analysis and assessment of historical concepts.