The Art of Protest: The Radical Hope of Activism Platform; Amy Hay, PhD

This talk will focus on the “art of protest” both in the sense of the visual media produced by grassroots activists and in the ways that they understood problems and mobilized communities. How they conceived, created, and constructed visual texts demonstrates not just their arguments and ideology, such work reflects states of mind, the ways activists dealt with the messy business of challenging corporations and institutions, and changing hearts and minds and policies and laws. Uncovering these internal states allows for two things: 1) As a way of understanding the humor, rage, and determination that motivated activists to persevere despite obstacles and 2) as an entry point into understanding agency that may not result in positive or negative outcomes. Most activism happens daily, often in small ways like phone calls and town hall meetings and letters to the editor. Change often happens incrementally, until it happens like a storm. But activists consistently exert agency that represents a kind of radical hope. They get up every day and fight for the better world they want. They win some important goals even as they lose some. They get up the next day and fight for the better world they want. They perform these daily acts as a form of radical hope. They speak truth to power and fight for a more just, cleaner, and better world

Amy Hay is a professor of history at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. Her research focuses on public health activism, specifically the mobilization of various groups of citizens protesting environmental pollution and its effects on human and environmental health. She has published on women’s activism at the Love Canal chemical disaster, and her book, The Defoliation of America (University of Alabama Press, 2022), examines the ways various groups – religious, grassroots, veterans – challenged the official narrative of using the phenoxy herbicides safely in South Vietnam and throughout the western United States. Her current project examines the connection between environment and health in the Rio Grande Valley over the long 20th century. It examines two groups of medical migrants – winter Texans and migrant workers – and considers the emergence of health disparities between the groups


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