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L.A. Kauffman discusses How to Read a Protest
Friday, November 9, 7:30pm
Pegasus Books Downtown
L.A. Kauffman discusses How to Read a Protest: The Art of Organizing and Resistance
When millions of people took to the streets for the 2017 Women’s Marches, there was an unmistakable air of uprising, a sense that these marches were launching a powerful new movement to resist a dangerous presidency. But the work that protests do often can’t be seen in the moment. It feels empowering to march, and record numbers of Americans have joined anti-Trump demonstrations, but when and why does marching matter? What exactly do protests do, and how do they help movements win?
In this original and richly illustrated account, organizer and journalist L.A. Kauffman delves into the history of America’s major demonstrations, beginning with the legendary 1963 March on Washington, to reveal the ways protests work and how their character has shifted over time. Using the signs that demonstrators carry as clues to how protests are organized, Kauffman explores the nuanced relationship between the way movements are made and the impact they have. How to Read a Protest sheds new light on the catalytic power of collective action and the decentralized, bottom-up, women-led model for organizing that has transformed what movements look like and what they can accomplish.
L.A. Kauffman has been a grassroots organizer and movement journalist for more than thirty-five years. She was the mobilizing coordinator for some of the largest demonstrations in U.S. history—the massive Iraq antiwar protests of 2003 and 2004—and has played key roles in many other movements and campaigns. Kauffman's writings on organizing and resistance have appeared in The Guardian, n+1, Frieze, and numerous other publications, and she is the author of Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism.
“L.A. Kauffman is one of the people I look to most for the big picture about American activism—where it’s been, where it’s going, what works, who’s doing the work, and why. For How to Read a Protest, you could paraphrase George Orwell to say that those who remember the past understand the present, and those who understand the present (sometimes) shape the future. This swift-moving book equips us all to do exactly that, as it revises and deepens and corrects what we know about past social movements in America and appraises what has made the women-led, grassroots resistance to Trump unlike any movement that came before. The next chapter is something we will all write together if and when we rise to the promise and the legacy of the radical past that Kauffman so ably describes.”—Rebecca Solnit, author of Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities
“Kauffman’s new book offers critical historical analysis and strategic insights, raising provocative and complex questions about the relationship between protests and movement building. Every organizer and social movement historian should read it.”—Barbara Ransby, author of Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the Twenty-First Century
“How to Read a Protest is an incredible tool for understanding collective action: who is involved, how it unfolds, and what makes it successful, with special emphasis on the often-overlooked role of women in making movements and how ideas of organization and leadership have shifted. L.A. Kauffman helps us understand and interpret the reasons behind, and meanings of, protest in our time, giving us a valuable gift of insight and research.”—Marina Sitrin, coauthor ofThey Can’t Represent Us! Reinventing Democracy from Greece to Occupy