Constructive Resilience as Faith-Based Nonviolent Activism in the Face of Repression

Loni Bramson's picture
Call for Papers
November 17, 2018 to November 20, 2018
Colorado, United States
Subject Fields: 
Human Rights, Political Science, Religious Studies and Theology, Social Work, Women's & Gender History / Studies

Constructive Resilience as Faith-Based Nonviolent Activism in the Face of Repression

Nonviolent responses to injustice and oppression, and nonviolent approaches to social change, have deep roots in religious thought and practice. Commitments to nonviolence can be found in virtually every religious tradition, even though such commitments have not always averted expressions of violence in the name of religion.

Contemporary theories of nonviolent social change increasingly distinguish contentious forms of nonviolent activism from constructive forms (Vinthagen, 2015; Schock, 2013). To date, however, academic discourse has focused largely on contentious forms of activism, due to propensities for narrative drama and conflict that are also reflected in media coverage and wider public discourse. As a result, constructive forms of activism have been widely ignored, under-researched, and under-theorized.

Constructive activism, as the concept is being used here, involves the creation of radical alternatives to socially oppressive systems and relationships. It is characterized by sustained efforts to construct new social norms, structures, and practices based on commitments to social justice. In this sense, constructive activism is more than reformist initiatives within a dysfunctional social order. It is an attempt to construct elements of a radically new social order.

Within a given movement, constructive and contentious forms of activism are sometimes pursued as complementary strategies, as was the case in the Gandhian independence movement (Gandhi, 1945). But a constructive program can also be pursued as an independent strategy (Sorensen, 2016).

Even when constructive programs are pursued as independent strategies, with no direct provocation of existing power structures, such programs are often met by violent repression because they can be perceived as an implicit challenge to vested interests supported by the status quo. Constructive programs must therefore be characterized by resilience – or constructive resilience – in the face of repression (Karlberg, 2010). This panel seeks to explore the concept of constructive resilience as a faith-based approach to social change in the face of repression.


500-word proposals should be submitted to Dr. Robert Stockman,, by March 20, for possible presentation at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting in Denver, November 17-20, 2018.

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Dr. Robert Stockman,

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