How do you disrupt a cycle? How can you make sure there is a different outcome? This is where revolutions come into play: a cycle is broken when there is radical/complete change in a system or conceptual scheme. A revolutionary concept will initially challenge traditionally held ideas, which will cause societal backlash/pushpack in opposition to this idea. However, eventually some of these ideas can become widely accepted, meaning they become ingrained in those societies conceptual schemes.
Throughout the year we have studied different types of revolutions. The commonality of all types of revolutions are that they begin with ideas that combat conceptual schemes of the time. Over the course of this year, we have studied different types of revolutions: political upheaval against oppressive governments, advances to alter socioeconomic conditions, and changes in the way civilizations think about/conceptualize things (changes in paradigms).
When most people think of a revolution, what comes to mind is a bloody battle against an oppressive government, but over the course of this academic year, I’ve come to the conclusion that the term revolution econompasses so much more of the human experience than that.
The first type of revolution we explored was changes in paradigms. We started this unit by looking at the work of famous philosophers such as Locke, tracing the transformations over time of how revolutionary concepts were received by society and the following societal practices that have suppressed human rights. Although in contemporary society we do not view equality, inalienable rights, social contract, etc as revolutionary, these concepts over time have transformed how we recognize humanity and how we should legally/socially treat different groups of individuals. Another topic that we explored as revolutionary was how knowledge/truth can be constructed through conceptual schemes. Throughout this unit, we looked at how different societies have different ways of understanding concepts and how there can be more than one true way. Conceptual schemes, or how we shape our experiences of the world can have a cultural slant, so perspectives can change amongst different societies. This is revolutionary because there is no one true worldview because it is shaped off unique experiences and traditions.
The second type of revolution is radical political/social change. One example we studied was the Rwandan genocide, where the ethnic majority sought to eradicate the minority ethnic group. Throughout this unit, we looked at how we must recognize the humanity in everyone, even if they have done something unthinkable. This form of racialized violence was met with learning to heal and understand what happened. Similarly, we studied racialized violence in the US and how this physical/legal oppression was met with mass mobilization in the form of the Civil Rights Movement. Both Rwanda and black political tactics represent people revolting against current conditions in their countries and standing up to authorities. Lastly, the political violence following World War II in Germany represents radical social change. Throughout this time, the development of the Red Army Faction and the violence against innocent people is a revolutionary concept in order to promote less state violence and oppression.
Another type of revolution we explored was one that completely altered the socioeconomic status of Russia through the Communist Revolution. This political upheaval was centered upon unstable economic conditions but the results of this revolution lead to increased political terror and oppression, clearly not the goal of the revolutionary idea of economic equality. the Red Army Faction’s struggle againist state violence in Germany, racialized terror in the United States starting with the concpetion of slavery, the French Revolution, and the Tutsi’s physical upheveal againist the Hutus in Rwanda. Another type of revolution we have looked at is how ideas can destabilized current conceptual schemes. For example, we’ve looked at how concepts of equality/freedom of thought have disrupted the status quo, how ideas from the scientific revolution changed how we understood knowledge, how performances can shift how the audience thinks about concepts, how racial identity/equality can upset the social hierarchy, how ideas regarding the freedom of press can also disrupt conceptual schemes.
All of these different types of revolutions have similar goals: to change society. But, there are different results depending on the cultural/social/political/historical contexts in which these revolutions took place. And once a revolution happens, how do we remember it? Over the course of the year, we’ve explored cultural memory through art, film, and performances. We looked at the representation of violence, historical oppression, and other social contexts in which we must view these mediums of art. I’ve learned that the actual revolution is just as important as how the revolution is represented throughout artistic forms. For example, we learned about how performance can be a cultural tool used to represent past oppressions but also help uplift entire groups of people. This powerful form of memory helps the oppressed tell their narrative and remember an oppressive past as something that allows individuals to be stronger in contemporary politics. So, how we remember the past is important to how we will use the past to motivate future actions. Remembrance can in fact be a form of revolution because remembering oppressive events in a light that gives the power to the victims allows the existing paradigm of oppression to be transformed into something positive.
In my experience, this course has been revolutionary in how we decide what to study. Oftentimes, in the US, we choose to put focus on the Eurocentric view and fail to see how diverse human experiences/cultural understandings can broaden our viewpoints and open us up to learn about how there is no authentic human experience or narrative we should be perpetuating. So, a revolution in the classroom can be shifting the conceptual schemes as of what we deem worthy of study. By exploring cultures and areas of focus radically different from our own, we are pushing back against the strict confines as to what others think we should be studying. We are in the process of re-organizing knowledge/experience so that we give importance to all cultures and ways of understanding.