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CROW Research: Social Activism

Hunger Strikes as Social Protest

Hunger strikes are an important tool of achieving social change and social justice that demand understanding from a greater theoretical perspective-particularly with regard to their links to inequality and the empowerment of disenfranchised individuals and groups through protest and this project explores these links.

With assistance from graduate research associates Laurie Cooper and Michael Grissom from the Department of Sociology and funding from a University of Memphis Faculty Research Grant, Dr. Steve Scanlan embarked on a long-term project to examine hunger strikes as social protest from a comparative-historical perspective.

Using data constructed from The New York Times Index this project accounts for the prevalence of hunger strikes over the last 100 years, drawing connections to social movement theory and their dynamic as a protest repertoire. In its present form the project explores the "who, what, when, where, and why" of the world's hunger strikes including important gender considerations with regard to their origins and use including, but not limited to, demands for suffrage in the early twentieth century to supporting and striking alongside nationalist prisoner sons in Northern Ireland, Palestine, and Turkey.

Sport and Social Change in Post-Apartheid South Africa

Since the late 1950s, organized sports in South Africa have been used by political activists as sites for collectively challenging the racist apartheid system. Since the dismantling of apartheid, organized sports have become a tool for nation-building in the new South Africa. In this research, Cynthia Fabrizio Pelak examined how the most popular women's sport in South Africa-netball-became a site for negotiating power relations and forging oppositional collective identities among women of diverse social locations.

Through the 1990s, Black South African women have challenged the image of netball as a "White" women's sport and worked with White women to build a sport for all South Africans. Based on fieldwork conducted in South Africa during 1999 and 2000 and theoretical insights of social movements and Black feminist scholars, this research develops an analytical strategy to elucidate how athletes can serve as agents of social change and how competitive sports can be sites of collective challenges to the status quo.

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Last Updated: 1/20/12