Four Dead in Ohio: Volume 45

Cover of Four Dead in Ohio

The Global Legacy of Youth Activism and State Repression


Table of contents

(12 chapters)


Pages i-xv
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Section I Student and Youth Movements


From the 1960s onwards, students and members of the academic community on growing numbers of college and university campuses in the United States chose to confront the issue of apartheid by advocating divestment from corporations or financial institutions with any sort of presence in or relationship with South Africa. Student divestment advocates faced serious opposition from university administrators as well as opponents of institutional divestiture both at home and abroad. Despite these challenges, the academic community in the United States was one of the first arenas where anti-apartheid activism coalesced. This chapter examines the campaigns of students and educators who participated in the debate over divestment – to engage with the South African government and apartheid through dialogue and communication or to disengage completely from the country through withdrawal of financial investments. The anti-apartheid efforts of the academic community at Michigan State University, one of the first large research universities in the United States to confront the issue of apartheid and divestment at the university level and beyond, serves as a window to view academic activism against apartheid. The Southern Africa Liberation Committee (SALC), a consortium of students, faculty, and community members dedicated to aiding the liberation struggle of Southern Africa, led the efforts at Michigan State and collaborated with allies across Michigan and the United States. SALC focused most of its efforts on South Africa, though the organization also confronted the issue of South Africa's controversial occupation of South West Africa and the ongoing civil war in Angola.


The visibility and impact of young activists is evident in 2020 more than ever, most clearly in the Black Lives Matter movement, but also among climate strikers, water protectors, March for Our Lives organizers, and even TikTok users and K-pop music fans. The ambivalence with which adults have responded – from pride to dismissal to demonization – has its roots in implicit yet pervasive assumptions about young people stretching back to the early nineteenth century. Through a brief historical sketch, I demonstrate that the contemporary concept of the “American teenager” is the product of a series of social, economic, and political changes in the United States and that this concept undermines youth activism and gives license to adults to dismiss young peoples' justified anger at injustice. This essay contends that adultism, and specifically ephebiphobia – the fear and loathing of young people – dominates today's cultural perceptions of youth in the United States and contributes to policies in education and law enforcement that have domesticated and criminalized young people, undermining their political power. Understanding of the historical factors that shape adults' attitudes toward young peoples' capabilities as activists is a first step to improving and sustaining collaboration between youth and adults in social movements.


Youth political engagement is often ignored and downplayed by adults, who often embrace a youth deficit model. The youth deficit model downplays the voices and unique experiences of youth in favor of adult-led and adult-centered experiences. Like other historical deficit models, the youth deficit model also provides permission to adults to speak for or about youth, even when not asked to speak for them. We refer to this powerful construction of youth interests by adults as mediation. Fortunately, online advocacy could offer an unmediated route to political engagement for youth as digital natives. Using a unique dataset, we investigate whether online protest spaces offer an unmediated experience for youth to learn about and engage in political protest. However, we find that youth engagement, and especially unmediated youth engagement, is rare among advocacy digital spaces, though it varies by movement, SMO-affiliation, and age groups. Based on our findings, we argue that, rather than youth being primarily responsible for any alleged disengagement, the lack of online spaces offering opportunities for youth to take ownership of their own engagement likely discourages youth from participating in traditional political advocacy and renders the level of youth engagement an admirable accomplishment of young people.


The chapter details the creation of a Peace Fellows program for students at a New York university, supported by community and university institutions, as well as activist professors, to nurture young people to learn about and take action on peace and social justice issues. The program resulted in an Institute for Peace Studies, a Minor in Peace and Conflict Studies, a Peace Action Matters club, and alumni who hold positions as peace organizers.

Section II Responses to Repression


This paper analyzes the relationship between the Chilean student movement and state force action during the period 2000–2012, placing specific attention on three waves of student contention that took place at the turn of the century. During the decade under study, the Chilean students became more contentious, they broadened their demands beyond specific grievances to encompass a critique to the education system as a whole, their alliance system grew (gaining from these denser networks of collaboration more resources to mobilize), and they managed to win public opinion on their side. However, the relationship with state forces has not been static across time, and both students and state forces have experienced changes in how they interact with each other. The results of this paper are based on a mixed method approach that drew on a quantitative database of student contention in Chile (n = 491 student events) and 15 in-depth interviews with leader activists from the most salient recent Chilean student movements of three periods under study, in addition to some key informants. The findings confirm that when student protests target the government, when they use disruptive strategies that affect the status-quo, and when they mobilize alongside other challenging actors, they are more likely to be met with direct repression by authorities. The research shows that there is a “dialect of repression” at play by which state forces' direct repression of protest can be two-fold: on the one hand, it gives students visibility in the public opinion, but on the other, it can be negative for ushering support if the media and authorities are successful in portraying them as violent or a threat to public order. In this sense, the figure of the “encapuchado,” students who disguise their identity and purposefully seek confrontation with authorities during mobilizations is problematized by the movement itself. How to win public opinion and use that visibility in their favor is related to decision-making mechanisms that the movement puts at play but also to the calculations done on the part of the government and security forces about the leverage of the movement.


Iraqi universities in the aftermath of invasion in 2003 experienced extremely high levels of “post”-war violence and insecurity. The most widely known dimension of this violence is the shocking assassination campaign that killed hundreds of Iraqi academics. This paper provides an analysis of violence and insecurity in post-2003 that takes a broader optic and considers multiple forms of vulnerability to attack including insurgencies, sectarian conflict, and criminal violence. It also considers the various responses to the security dilemma taken by Coalition forces – principally counter-terrorism and stabilization efforts – and by Iraqi policy-makers and higher education communities, including security measures, politicization, ethno-sectarianization, and displacement.


This chapter examines the dynamic of state-society interaction during the events of the winter 2013–2014 Ukrainian Maidan Revolution. Using a new dataset, containing responses from the activists of the dissent movement, the study uncovers the “tipping point” at which revolutionaries were much more likely to support violent tactics. The study adds to the scholarly debate on repression-dissent, showing that social interpretation of state repression is essential in affecting social support for political violence. In addition to the theoretical contribution, this article presents the first systematic scholarly account of the repression-dissent dynamic of the 2013–2014 Ukrainian revolution, implementing original empirical and interview data.

Section III Memory and Commemoration


Prodemocracy protest in South Korea in the 1980s can be described in terms of two waves of sustained activism between 1979 and 1987. One wave was brutally repressed in the Gwangju Uprising of May 1980, while the other succeeded in bringing in a transition to democracy in June 1987. How did activists recover from the repression in the first wave, and how did they create a viable movement in the second wave? This work focuses on the role of memory work about the Gwangju Uprising in the mobilization of the prodemocracy movement. Drawing on a wide assortment of documents collected from various archives in South Korea, the author demonstrates how memory work contributed to the movement dynamics. Cognitively, memory work radicalized movement participants such that they became completely disillusioned with the legitimacy of state power. Emotionally, memory work triggered a moral shock among recruits that motivated them to take the high risks associated with activism. Relationally, memory work provided a bonding experience for activists within a network. The findings also show a process through which memory work becomes a powerful social force: emergence of a challenger, proliferation of an alternative narrative, and then a full-blown contention between the state and a challenger. The process also means changes of the status of memory in terms of ownership, salience, and valence.


Since the shootings at Kent State University (KSU) in 1970, students and activists have held commemorative ceremonies to mark that event. The university ignored that past and decided to build a gym annex covering part of the land on which the National Guard had maneuvered in 1970. Led by the May 4th Coalition, activists sought to persuade the university to change the building's location. The student concern was the preservation of what they viewed as “sacred” ground which would be buried underneath the annex. At the 1977 annual commemoration speakers raised the annex issue and the newly formed May 4th Coalition ultimately occupied the site of the planned building with a tent city. That occupation was forcefully removed, and the university did build the facility where planned. The physical and spatial aspects of the commemoration of the Kent State shootings did, over time, lead the university to take on the responsibility to memorialize that conflict. This paper focuses on two interrelated issues: (1) the efforts of the May 4th Coalition and residents of Tent City to block or move the gym annex and (2) the refusal of KSU for years to recognize the broad significance of the events of May 1970 and their attempt to ignore or bury it.


Pages 229-237
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Cover of Four Dead in Ohio
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Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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