Steve Lambert and Stephen Duncombe put together this reading list for participants in the School for Creative Activism. Intended to be a helpful follow-up information from the workshop, here we share it with everyone.
Dream: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy by Stephen Duncombe — (free pdf) part analysis of popular culture, part how-to guide to creative activism, Stephen make a case for how activists can, and must use fantasy and spectacle in theor work…and do it ethically.
Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities by Rebecca Solnit – keep handy for when you’re feeling negative about your work. This got Steve Lambert through the disappointment of the 2004 election.
The Strategic Questioning Manual by Fran Peavey – (free pdf) A great shift in perspective on how we approach audiences, and how we can use respect and questions (instead of providing answers or challenges) to be more effective.
The Moral Equivalent of War by William James — (free pdf) Classic essay by the great philosopher and psychologist on how we must understand and respect — and appropriate — the good desires that motivate people to do bad stuff.
Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution compiled by Andrew Boyd and David Oswald Mitchel, eds. An invaluable collection of examples, theories and case studies for those interested in creative activism.
Re:Imagining Change: How to Use Story-based Strategy to Win Campaigns, Build Movements, and Change the World by Doyle Canning and Patrick Reinsborough. People like stories. They help us make sense of our world and our place in it. This book shows you how you can use this in your work.
Don’t Think Of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate: The Essential Guide for Progressives by George Lakoff. How morals and values guide even our most “rational” political decisions. An accessible introduction to this important field.
“The Conservative Psyche: How Ordinary People Come to Embrace Paul Ryan’s Cruelty,” (free link) by Joshua Holland. A good, quick interview of cognitive theory and its importance in understanding why people hold the political ideas that they do.
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. A book that changed the game by insisting that teachers (and organizers) have to meet people where they are.
Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky. Almost 50 years old but still THE great guide to organizing. And a fun read too.
“The Gospels” and “Acts,” from the Bible. You don’t need to be a believer or even approve of religion to appreciate that Jesus was a master creative activist and his apostle Paul was an effective – if opportunistic — organizer. See also Moses, Muhammad, Buddha, et al.
On Cultural Theory
The Cultural Resistance Reader by Stephen Duncombe, ed. All you’ll ever want to read about Cultural Resistance in one place
Poetry Is Not a Luxury; from Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. A non-poem by the great poet about the importance of culture and creativity in allowing us to reach places that our socialized minds tell us we can’t go.
Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain by Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson, eds. Looking for rebellion in unlikely places: punk rock, reggae, skinhead culture.
Emphasis on Sport; from Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic by Bertolt Brecht. The radical playwright’s advice to his fellow artists that if they want to have an impact they they need to make their art more fun…like soccer.
Beyond a Boundary by C.L.R. James. Memoir of the great Caribbean intellectual on his love for cricket. A game we can’t understand, but that — ironically — made James an anti-Imperialist.
Prison Notebooks by Antonio Gramsci. Stuck in a fascist prison, Gramsci thought and wrote about organizing and the role of culture in politics. A but cryptic, but full of invaluable insights.
The Politics of Aesthetics, by Jacques Ranciere. Useful discussion from a contemporary philosopher on the different ways that art can be political, from reflecting the world to rearranging our very sense of it.
Introduction; from Rabelais and His World by Mikhail Bakhtin. What does a Soviet literary scholar writing about a medieval French writer have to do with activism? One word: Carnival! A great meditation on the subversive quality of laughter and spectacle.
Re/Search: Pranks – entertaining, and often inspiring even if the examples don’t apply directly or are… let’s just say unethical.
Only Joking by Jimmy Carr – If there is a book on comedy theory (that you’d actually want to read) this might be it. Analysis of the history of comedy, different theories about what makes us laugh, and lots of jokes.
Sataristas by Paul Provenza and Dan Dion – First hand interviews with comedians of all kinds. Many valuable insights that, with a little creativity, you can apply to your practice.
Truth in Comedy: The Manual of Improvisation – If you take a class in improv, they’ll probably tell you to read this. Or they should. Covers some key ideas that can be helpful: agreement, building a scene, working at the top of your intelligence, and “truth in comedy” – a grounding in the truth is more conducive to comedy than entirely fabricated material.
Bonus Material on Comedy
Dead Funny: Humor in Hitler’s Germany – There were jokes in Hitler’s Germany – Nazi jokes, resister jokes, Jewish jokes. This book provokes us with the question; as many subversive jokes as there were in Nazi Germany, what impact did they have?
On Social Marketing
Using marketing techniques to promote healthy behaviors. These are books I recommend often.
Promoting Nutrition and Physical Activity Through Social Marketing: Current Practices and Recommendations by Rina Alcalay, PhD and Robert Bell, PhD – (free pdf) If you can get past the fact that you are reading an academic report, this is solid gold.
Fostering Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community Based Social Marketing – Doug MacKenzie Mohr and William Smith – more readable (uses narrative examples) intro to social marketing with environmental examples.
On Being An Artist
Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils and Rewards of Artmaking by David Bayles & Ted Orland – Steve bought this and given it away more times than he can remember. Kevin Kelley sums it up with “Easily the keenest insight into making art that I’ve ever read. One continuous aahhaaa.”
Creating a Life Worth Living by Carol Lloyd – Steve coincidentally found this book when he worked at a motorcycle shop and decided he wanted to get out. Good little exercises to help jog your mind.
How to work more efficiently, smarter, and with more ease and pleasure.
Getting Things Done by David Allen – yes it’s aimed at a business demographic, but damn does it ever work.
The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play by Dr. Neal Fiore – If you have even the slightest tendencies of a perfectionism or procrastination (and who doesn’t?) the insights in this book are incredibly helpful.top