How to Start a Revolution: Ideas and Practices of Political Resistance - POLI6820

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2022 to 2023.


The module provides an overview of some of the core arguments and issues that arise within the context of debates on political resistance: moral justifications of resistance to political authority, the techniques of resistance employed in historical examples, the presuppositions underpinning these techniques, the tensions and difficulties that typically arise in any act of resistance. Starting with Socrates, sent to the Athenians to act as a 'gadfly', the module will look at selected historical examples of resistance, identify and analyse aims and methods, and review and discuss outcomes and consequences. A special feature of this module is that students can submit a ‘documented practice of resistance’ for assessment.


Contact hours

Contact Hours: 22
Private Study Hours: 128
Total: 150

Method of assessment

Track 1:
Essay 1 (Outline): Maximum of 1000 Words: 20%
Essay 2: Maximum of 4000 Words: 80%
Track 2:
Essay 1 (Outline): Maximum of 1000 Words: 20%
Documented Practice of Resistance: recorded performative element (either photography, film, or audio recording) and accompanying Written Component (Max 2,500 words)

Indicative reading

Plato, Apology (numerous editions available online)
Mohandas Gandhi, The Essential Writings (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)
David Henry Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience", classic essay widely available online and in print, e.g. in Hugo Adam Bedau (ed.), Civil Disobedience in Focus (London: Routledge, 1991), pp.28-48
Vaclav Havel, The power of the powerless: citizens against the state in central-eastern Europe (Armonk, N.Y. : M.E. Sharpe, 1985), available as e-book
Claudia Mesch, Art and Politics: A Small History of Art for Social Change Since 1945 (London: IB Tauris, 2013)
Dorothee Soelle, The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001)
Manuel Castells, Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2nd ed. 2015), available through the library catalogue as e-book
Sarah H. Awad, Brady Wagoner (eds), Street Art of Resistance (New York, Palgrave Macmillan 2018), available as e-book
Extinction Rebellion, This is Not a Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook (Penguin Books, 2019)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will:
Be able to identify, summarise and critically analyse historically relevant and commonly used justifications for offering resistance to political authority
Be able to critically analyse concrete examples of resistance (historical or current) offered to political authority in terms of underlying ideas and aims, methods used, and outcomes achieved
Be able to identify, describe and critically analyse commonly used methods of political resistance in terms of their moral justification, effectiveness and lasting impact,
Be familiar with, and be able to analyse and review, the moral and political discourse on the role of violence in political resistance,
Be able to conceptualise and analyse the complex relationship between political ideas and political practice within the context of resistance.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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