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Sharon Erickson Nepstad

Distinguished Professor

Photo: Sharon  Nepstad

Chair

Email: 
nepstad@unm.edu
Office: 
SSCI 1066

Curriculum vitae

Education

Ph.D. University of Colorado, 1996

Research Interests

Religion , Social Movements , Political Sociology

Books:

title

Nonviolent Struggle: Theories, Strategies, and Dynamics

Sharon Erickson Nepstad

From Gandhi's movement to win Indian independence to the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, an expanding number of citizens have used nonviolent action to win political goals. While such events have captured the public imagination, they have also generated a new surge of scholarly interest in the field of nonviolence and civil resistance studies. Although researchers have produced new empirical data, theories, and insights into the phenomenon of nonviolent struggle, the field is still quite unfamiliar to many students and scholars. 

In Nonviolent Struggle: Theories, Strategies, and Dynamics, sociologist Sharon Nepstad provides a succinct introduction to the field of civil resistance studies, detailing its genesis, key concepts and debates, and a summary of empirical findings. Nepstad depicts the strategies and dynamics at play in nonviolent struggles, and analyzes the factors that shape the trajectory and outcome of civil resistance movements. The book draws on a vast array of historical examples, including the U.S. civil rights movement, the Indonesian uprising against President Suharto, the French Huguenot resistance during World War II, and Cesar Chavez's United Farm Workers. Nepstad describes both principled and pragmatic nonviolent traditions and explains various categories of nonviolent action, concluding with an assessment of areas for future research. 

Available for purchase here.

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Nonviolent Revolutions: Civil Resistance in the Late Twentieth Century

Sharon Erickson Nepstad

Winner of the 2012 Outstanding Book Award for the American Sociological Association, Section on Peace, War, and Social Conflict

In the spring of 1989, Chinese workers and students captured global attention as they occupied Tiananmen Square, demanded political change, and were tragically suppressed by the Chinese army. Months later, East German civilians rose up nonviolently, brought down the Berlin Wall, and dismantled their regime. Although both movements used tactics of civil resistance, their outcomes were different. Why? 

In Nonviolent Revolutions, Sharon Erickson Nepstad examines these and other uprisings in Panama, Chile, Kenya, and the Philippines. Taking a comparative approach that includes both successful and failed cases of nonviolent resistance, Nepstad analyzes the effects of movements' strategies along with the counter-strategies regimes developed to retain power. She shows that a significant influence on revolutionary outcomes is security force defections, and explores the reasons why soldiers defect or remain loyal and the conditions that increase the likelihood of mutiny. She then examines the impact of international sanctions, finding that they can at times harm movements by generating new allies for authoritarian leaders or by shifting the locus of power from local civil resisters to international actors. 

Available for purchase here.

title

Religion and War Resistance in the Plowshares Movement

Sharon Erickson Nepstad

Winner of the 2009 Outstanding Book Award for the American Sociological Association, Section on Peace, War, and Social Conflict

As the nuclear arms race exploded in the 1980s, a group of U.S. religious pacifists used radical nonviolence to intervene. Armed with hammers, they broke into military facilities to pound on missiles and pour blood on bombers, enacting the prophet Isaiah’s vision: “Nations shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” Calling themselves the Plowshares movement, these controversial activists received long prison sentences; nonetheless, their movement grew and expanded to Europe and Australia. In this book, Sharon Erickson Nepstad documents the emergence and international diffusion of this unique form of high-risk collective action. Drawing on in-depth interviews, original survey research, and archival data, Nepstad explains why some Plowshares groups have persisted over time while others have struggled or collapsed. Comparing the U.S. movement with less successful Plowshares groups overseas, Nepstad reveals how decisions about leadership, organization, retention, and cultural adaptations influence movements’ long-term trajectories.

Available for purchase here.

Recent/Select Publications:

Nepstad, Sharon Erickson. 2015.  “Nonviolent Resistance Research,” Mobilization 20(4): 415-426.

Nepstad, Sharon Erickson. 2013. “Mutiny and Nonviolence in the Arab Spring: Exploring Military Defections and Loyalty in Egypt, Bahrain, and Syria,” Journal of Peace Research 50(3): 337-349.