Author Archive | Inspire Solutions

Why Artistic Activism?

Our first post of the new academic year once again puts the focus on nonviolent forms of resistance, and the need for activists (and indeed educators) to create opportunities that can disrupt people’s pre-existing ideas and values. For this, people must be moved emotionally, and artist and activist Rebecca Bray argues that this can best […]

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An Introduction to Our Topic: Resistance (2)

A serious consideration of nonviolent resistance requires us to confront both practical and conceptual issues. While the practice goes back at least to the 4th century B.C.E., its history and successes remain largely unrecognized. Given our current normalization of violence, we tend to see every nonviolent movement that fails as confirmation of the inherent limitations […]

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What Makes Nonviolent Movements Explode?

With a focus on the Occupy Movement, authors and activists Mark Engler and Paul Engler, provide us with a real understanding of how nonviolent movements succeed. The key is the powerful combination of sacrifice and disruption, something that only rare groups “combine in thoughtful and creative ways.” But when they do, the movement can explode […]

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Five Successful Campaigners Share their Secrets

Activist Ben Phillips interviews the leaders of five successful but quite different nonviolent movements, including the campaigns to end South African Apartheid, save Kenya’s forests and end the debt crisis in developing countries. He learns much that is not taught in social science classrooms. **********  When I was young I got involved in campaigns because […]

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Germaine Tillion, une leçon de vie dont on peut s’inspirer

In this very important contribution, Dawson College Professor Djemaa Maazouzi introduces us to Germaine Tillion, an anthropologist and ethnologist, revered by many as the “conscience of 20th century France,” whose life and work was driven by her moral outrage over human suffering. In the 1930s, she opposed the racist ideologies spreading through Europe and the […]

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Rediscovering Nonviolence in the Vatican

All of the world’s major religions have opposed the taking of human life, but when religions gain political power, the story becomes much more ambivalent, particularly with respect to the acceptance of warfare. Early Christianity expressed a strong commitment to pacifism and opposed Christian participation in war; this shifted once Christianity became the official Church […]

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Humor but Not Humiliation

Gandhi believed that the victim’s suffering could awaken the conscience of an oppressor. This process of conversion has been called moral jiu-jitsu, whereby the unexpected refusal to respond with violence makes the perpetrator lose their moral balance. While many, including Gandhi, have recognized that this process can take time, and often happens by way of […]

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Weapons of Mass Democracy

In this article, originally published in September 2009, Stephen Zunes reveals how veterans of successful nonviolent movements are spreading their knowledge to activists around the world, who are increasingly adopting nonviolent action to overthrow dictatorial regimes or foreign occupiers.  As he emphasizes, though, successful nonviolent revolutions are homegrown affairs that involve a large cross-section of the population, […]

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Reclaiming Nonviolent History

Many people’s histories recount armed struggles and violent insurrections, but often forgotten are the central roles played by ordinary people in nonviolent action. How many of us have heard of the Palestinian Gandhis and Kings, or the fact that most of the original 13 colonies of the US had achieved de facto independence a year […]

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Civil Resistance and the Language of Power

How can nonviolent movements mobilize people to resist injustice, even to the point where their actions put them in personal jeopardy? For Jack Duvall, the answer lies in using the power of language to awaken and sustain a people’s passions, but not through shallow appeals to trigger our emotions, as is popular today, but rather with a call […]

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The Trifecta of Civil Resistance: Unity, Planning, Discipline

It is often argued that the success of nonviolent movements is largely determined by the exceptional circumstances in which each movement operated. This conclusion downplays the  skills and agency of those involved, due perhaps, as Hardy Merriman suggests, to the fact that people doubt or do not know the premise on which nonviolent action is based—that […]

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The Pacifist Dilemma: Women Peacemakers’ Responses to Islamic State

In American scholar Theodore Roszak’s wonderful fictional debate between Ghandi and Churchill, the British Prime Minister challenges Gandhi’s commitment to nonviolence by asking him what one is to do when the enemy is at the gate. Gandhi’s response does not waver: the enemy was “the product of a long catalogue of vengeful and selfish actions” […]

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The Syrian Resistance: A Tale of Two Struggles

Maciej Bartkowski and Mohja Kahf suggest that it is a tragedy of history when so many people regardless of sect, ethnicity, religion, and gender join in nonviolent resistance to demand freedom for all, and achieve so much with so little during such a brief time, only to have their accomplishments go largely unrecognized, and their […]

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Defeating ISIS through Civil Resistance?

Maria Stephan of the United States Institute of Peace looks at the potential of using nonviolent resistance against ISIS.  This article, written in July of this year, picks up from where “The Pacifist Dilemma” ends by addressing how organized nonviolent civilian action could be effective in disrupting and denying the key sources of power on […]

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Deploying Art Against War

Joshua Levkowitz addresses the potential of art to oppose violence and trigger further community resistance, as well as to help communities heal from war. While the results have been varied, the author discusses examples of public art from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Middle East that were presented at a recent forum organized by the United […]

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Countering Hybrid War: Civil Resistance as a National Defence Strategy

This article examines the possibility of deterring aggressive actions by a powerful state through civil resistance. Maciej Bartkowski argues that, while the Western response to Russia’s recent actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine has been predicated on a show of military force, nonviolent civilian defense promises another path. His argument draws both on an understanding […]

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Announcing Our Theme for 2016-2017: Resistance

Inspire Solutions is pleased to announce its theme for 2016-2017: Resistance. Of course, we mean nonviolent resistance as, in a world that believes so much in violence, what is more threatening to the status quo than the proposal that nonviolence is not only more ethical, but also more effective? While nonviolent action is typically dismissed […]

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An Introduction to Gender and Peacebuilding (2)

Violence is one of the most gendered of social activities, but this goes beyond the fact that the perpetrators of violence are overwhelming male, keeping in mind that far more men are victims of other men’s violence than perpetrators themselves. Violence is also gendered in terms of how we think about violence, and specifically how […]

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The Refugee Crisis: Demilitarising Masculinities

In international politics, men are regularly viewed as security threats. All military age men killed by US drone strikes are automatically counted as combatants, unless information conclusively identifying them as civilians is available. In its decision to open its borders to 25,000 government-sponsored Syrian refugees, the Canadian Government set its priorities: women, children, families and […]

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The Masculinisation of Complexity

Our understanding of the gendered nature of war has been profoundly shaped by the thought-provoking work of one eminent feminist scholar. In this next article, Marion Bowman interviews Political Scientist Cynthia Enloe; they begin with the situation that confronted the courageous women who sought to end WWI and then continue into a discussion of today’s […]

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The Thread of Anger

In this very personal story, a Dawson science student reflects on why she alone was subjected to her father’s abuse and laments on the fact that our society still hasn’t learned that we can’t solve violence with violence. ********** As a child, “anger” and “fear” has always followed me like a shadow. It isolated me […]

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A Normal Day

In this beautifully-written story, Dawson student Maryam Parvez reveals how gender-based violence touches generations, but remains surrounded by silence. ********** Darkness overwhelmed her, it seeped into her pores and grew. She was not always like this, frail, weak with a body that was just bones, and eyes that were lifeless. No, she was not supposed […]

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Transforming Masculinity

Following the 1989 massacre at the Université de Montreal, three Canadian men – Michael Kaufman, Jack Layton and Ron Sluser – decided that men needed to work together to end violence against women. In 1991, they launched the White Ribbon Campaign, which today has become a worldwide movement in over 60 countries. In this article, […]

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Getting to Peace

In this article, first posted in 2010, Cynthia Cockburn addresses the fundamental questions How can we create more peaceful world? What underlies war’s continuing widespread acceptance? She suggests that we need to “create a nonviolent movement for a nonviolent world,” and that this must be grounded in a “transformative change in gender relations.” ********** Today’s […]

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