Every semester, I've always tried to take at least one class that I thought would really add to my understanding of society - how things work, what's important, etc. Last semester, classes like my seminar on Urbanism fit the bill. This semester, I took a political science seminar on Civil Rights.
Right away, when we were given our syllabus, I got kind of excited. We have a 15 page paper - long enough to study an issue, not long enough to make me insane trying to write and research every day. Anyway, the paper is basically on anything we want to study within the context of Civil Rights - and, despite the fact that I only had one class so far, I think I already know what I want to do.
I want to study how a movement works today - what makes it effective, what's a huge waste of time and what each type of event or organization means to a movement. Since that's such a huge question, I thought I'd narrow it down by focusing on the glbt movement in Massachusetts as a case study. So, for example, I'm interested to know what effect any of the rallies have had - is the publicity worthwhile? Are they useful as a sort of rallying point? I'm interested to see how all the different organizations fit together - how have in-your-face organizations like Knowthyneighbor made an impact compared to more conventional ones like MassEquality? What about regional organizations like the SouthCoast Alliance?
Furthermore, are there certain events that have become important in the movement - and how can you tell if they're important? For example, how did the attack in Puzzles effect popular opinion about gay rights? What about all those rallies for hate that went around earlier this year, including the one where one of the leaders attacked a counter-protester? Is there sort of a marketing element to movement-building that's become important, so people hear about these events and realize their importance?
I think that there's a lot to learn within the framing of this question that could be useful information. If anyone has any ideas about what you think - or any suggestions for a good book on the subject, let me know. I doubt too many people have done research in this area, but it's truly a question that interests me. Because movements are so important to increasing equality in this country, it's important to know what works and what doesn't. By the end of this semester, I intend to have an answer to that question.