Karen D. Crozier

This book is a critical, empirical analyses of nonviolent movements and resistance throughout the world. Bartkowski and other contributors provide readers with concrete and ordinary examples of people struggling for eman-cipation and justice against oppressive, violent governments and colonizers. The primary thesis focuses on the significance of how many nonviolent methods, strategies, and practices, in the last 200 years, were integral to national self-determination, by common people, instead of the often glam-orized attention given to armed actors of violence (pp. 1-2). Repudiating the myth of the necessity and inevitability of violent revolutions, the editor and contributing authors recover histories of nonviolent civil resistance that are both inspiring and informative. By focusing on people power instead of state or institutional power, Bartkowski unequivocally asserts, ". . . the force that shapes nations and propels their resistance lies in the organized, purposeful, and defiant actions of an unarmed population" (p. 3).

 

Through case study analysis, the volume contributors engage crucial questions around nonviolent strategies and tactics in nation and identity building in Sub-Saharan Africa (Ghana, Zambia, and Mozambique), North Africa and the Middle East (Algeria, Egypt, Iran and Palestine), Asia and Oceania (Burma, Bangladesh, and West Papua), Europe (Hungary, Poland, and Kosovo), and the Americas (United States and Cuba). The first two chapters of the book focus on the title of the book, recovering nonviolent history, and the various ways in which identity emerges and is nurtured in nonviolent struggles, respectively. The next fifteen chapters, broken into five parts based on the major geographical region, focus on the examination of one of the aforementioned countries.

 

These countries were strategically chosen based on the following criteria: 1) under-researched as a nonviolent civil resistance movement, 2) glorification or romanticizing of violent narratives of resistance within the country, and 3) representative of "major geographical areas, historically different periods, diverse cultures, distinct religions, and varied systems of governance and political control" (p. 8). Part 6 and the final chapter, chapter 18, is an analysis of the volume, with suggestions for next steps in research in light of the groundbreaking volume. An invaluable appendix constructed by Bartkowski provides readers with a visual aid of each country's summary of conflict that relies heavily on Gene Sharp's taxonomy, methods of nonviolent action. Sharp's categories are: "protest and persuasion; social, political, and economic noncooperation; and disruptive creative nonviolent interventions" (p. 348). In addition, he includes information about each movement's particular action and mass campaigns, level of participation, length of time, and impact (direct or immediate and long-term).

 

The text is first and foremost written for "students and scholars inter¬ested in accounting in their research for the purposeful agency of ordinary people who organize social movements and the strategic dimension of the use of nonviolent action in political conflicts" (p. 6). Beyond researchers and students, Bartkowski indicates the book can be useful for "policy pro¬fessionals, practitioners, activists, and nonspecialists" (p. 6) on the topic of nonviolent civil resistance. With a primary and secondary target audience, Bartkowski seems to assume the audiences are familiar with the term and concept of civil resistance because it is never clearly defined. Even though he defines such terms as "nonviolent method," "nonviolent tactic," and "nonviolent," in the endnotes of the introductory chapter, he does not do the same, either in the body of the chapter or in the end notes, for the term "civil resistance." The lack of an operational definition of civil resistance is not necessarily a weakness of the volume. On one hand, I think it leaves open the opportunity for the creative, ever-expanding work and vision that are necessary to engendering nonviolent social movements and change any¬where at any time. Yet, on the other hand, for academicians in the education of students and scholars of nonviolent civil resistance, working or starting definitions are helpful in grasping abstract, complex concepts. Whether or not this lack of clarifying definition is a problem remains to be seen.

 

A major strength of the text is that the editor and each contributing author are consistent on a central, primary message regarding the political efficacy of nonviolent civil resistance over violence in socio-political contexts of oppression and injustice. Unabashedly, the contributing scholars articulate the legitimacy of nonviolent civil resistance in the people's struggle for independence, and institutional and nation-building. In short, their commitment to recovering nonviolent history is also a form of activism to resist the metanarratives of violent revolutions and their epistemological sway over the minds of people in the academy and beyond. The plethora of examples and experiences of nonviolent civil resistance provided ignites even more imaginative ways of being in the world nonviolently. The contributing authors make it clear that nonviolent civil resistance juxtaposed to violent insurrection can more readily nurture democracy (p. 351).

 

Another major strength is the redeeming or loosing of nonviolent activity from its passive, nonresistant popular understanding. 'Nonviolent history' is coupled with 'civil resistance' in a way that elucidates explicit, assertive, courageous, and strategic action in pursuit of socio-political freedom and justice. Moreover, in this retelling and recovering of history, the terms "freedom" and "justice" are not merely abstract moral terms, but clearly predicated on how the oppressed who become civil resisters create concrete demands towards experiencing existential freedom and justice through nonviolent means. A minor critique of the text is that both during and after reading Bartkowski's intriguing introductory chapter, I was eager to get to the case studies. However, on a certain level, it seemed to be a little drawn out. Then, Smithey's chapter is positioned in between the introduction and Part I of the people's struggle for liberation, and I am not sure of the purpose it served.

 

While reading about the courage and tenacity exhibited by the people throughout the world in their yearning for and actualization of freedom, I was simultaneously reminded of the tragic cost of liberation. The struggle for political independence and freedom requires nothing less than a life rendered to non-compliance to subjugation and dehumanization. Bartkowski and contributing authors present death not as something to be feared, nor glamorized for the cause, but as part of the reality of the human race in our struggle to be and become more human. In closing, in the 1970s, the motto of the Black Panther Party in the U.S. was "All Power to People" which was broad and inclusive in scope. Due to this groundbreaking text, we now have greater access to the breadth, depth, height, and length of the people's power.

 

Karen D. Crozier, Assistant Professor of Practical Theology Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, Fresno Pacific University Fresno. Review was published in International Journal on World Peace 116 vol. XXXI, no. 2,, June, 2014.

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