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“Movement Schools” and Dialogical Diffusion of Nonviolent Praxis: Nashville Workshops in the Southern Civil Rights Movement

Nonviolent Conflict and Civil Resistance

ISBN: 978-1-78190-345-2, eISBN: 978-1-78190-346-9

Publication date: 19 September 2012


While it is generally well known that nonviolent collective action was widely deployed in the US southern civil rights movement, there is still much that we do not know about how that came to be. Drawing on primary data that consist of detailed semistructured interviews with members of the Nashville nonviolent movement during the late 1950s and 1960s, we contribute unique insights about how the nonviolent repertoire was diffused into one movement current that became integral to moving the wider southern movement. Innovating with the concept of serially linked movement schools – locations where the deeply intense work took place, the didactic and dialogical labor of analyzing, experimenting, creatively translating, and resocializing human agents in preparation for dangerous performance – we follow the biographical paths of carriers of the nonviolent Gandhian repertoire as it was learned, debated, transformed, and carried from India to the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and Howard University to Nashville (TN) and then into multiple movement campaigns across the South. Members of the Nashville movement core cadre – products of the Nashville movement workshop schools – were especially important because they served as bridging leaders by serially linking schools and collective action campaigns. In this way, they played critical roles in bridging structural holes (places where the movement had yet to be successfully established) and were central to diffusing the movement throughout the South. Our theoretical and empirical approach contributes to the development of the dialogical perspective on movement diffusion generally and to knowledge about how the nonviolent repertoire became integral to the US civil rights movement in particular.



Isaac, L.W., Cornfield, D.B., Dickerson, D.C., Lawson, J.M. and Coley, J.S. (2012), "“Movement Schools” and Dialogical Diffusion of Nonviolent Praxis: Nashville Workshops in the Southern Civil Rights Movement", Erickson Nepstad, S. and Kurtz, L.R. (Ed.) Nonviolent Conflict and Civil Resistance (Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, Vol. 34), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 155-184.



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