Learning through Protest: “Language of Critique” and “Language of Possibility”

  • Tomas Castro Nieto San Francisco State University
Keywords: Critical Pedagogy, Protest, Social Justice


The purpose of this study is to explore student protesters’ motivation and behaviors in the spring 2016 protest against the budget cuts of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. Analysis of the student interview transcriptions revealed four overarching themes. The theme of articulation centers on the participants’ abilities to articulate their identity, oppression and their resistance. Community and organizing analyzes the strategic elements that the student’s utilize and bonding through collective action. Empowerment and agency encompasses the students’ will and capacity to protest. Sustainability embodies the preservation of Ethnic Studies and the students’ pursuits of social justice. The study reveals the power of grassroots organizing in response to oppression; this protest is situated within a larger dialogue of oppression facing communities of color; and a counter dialogue of resilience, demonstrated by communities of color, is situated in response to oppression.

Author Biography

Tomas Castro Nieto, San Francisco State University
Tomas Nieto holds degrees from San Diego State University and San Francisco State University.  He currently lives in California.


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Research Articles