The opening decades of the 21st century have been characterized by growing inequalities within and across nations, war, terrorism, and devastating climate and environmental crises. The U.S. “War on Drugs” has contributed to the growth of the “prison-industrial complex,” which incarcerates 2.2 million Americans, 70% of whom are people of color. Hyper-surveillance, police harassment and brutality, and the deaths of unarmed African Americans in police custody have given rise to the Black Lives Matter campaign. New reproductive and genetic technologies have raised a host of ethical issues not only about how to conceive human life but also about who should be born. Trans* activists have mobilized against surgical interventions and state practices that coerce people to conform to binary gender formations. These developments make it clear that social justice continues to be a pressing and unresolved issue.

This course is designed to introduce students to competing theories of social justice and the complexity of social justice issues, while also familiarizing them with various social justice strategies and the demands of successful social justice advocacy and activism. In examining social justice activism, the course focuses on women’s mobilizations for economic, environmental, and reproductive justice, as well as immigrant, Indigenous, LGBTQ, and Trans struggles for livelihoods, rights, and recognition. The course will help students not only to deepen their understanding of the dynamics of oppression with particular attention to issues of race, ethnicity, gender, class, and sexuality, but to develop their ability to participate in social change.