Research Project

Anu Chugh, Political Science

Advisor: Edward Ramsamy, Africana Studies

This project reconsiders two classic historical cases of nonviolent liberation movements by challenging the commonly accepted notions that the Indian Independence Movement and the South African Anti-Apartheid Movement were nonviolent monoliths. While it is generally believed that the successes of these two liberation movements centered wholly on civil disobedience led by Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, nonviolent tactics were not the only ones employed in the campaign for liberation, nor were these social movements homogeneous. Instead, my historical research reveals a dynamic interplay between violent and nonviolent tactics that co-existed as strategies to resist oppression. Drawing from more than 20 historical sources and monographs, I recount that while Gandhi and Mandela advanced nonviolent efforts, independent actors concurrently engaged in violence. Moreover, prominent leaders of nonviolent efforts, like Mandela, not only tolerated but also directed militant groups. Finally, I suggest violence perpetrated outside the confines of the organized nonviolent movements reminded their oppressors that their power was penetrable such that the British and South African governments were swayed to negotiate with peaceful nonviolent leaders rather risk all-out war.